Reading The Article 204———

Rationalism is a philosophical breed imbued with certain distinctive characters. In it, an explanation is conceived in such a way that the explanation must create a logical inference to that which is explained. Empiricism, on the other hand, has no such inference to offer. If one kind of event is regularly and invariably followed by another kind, empiricism accepts the first kind of event as explaining the second kind. (Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism)

Please don’t make any mistake; the Article 204 as written above does not have anything to do with our Constitution or any legislation of whatever character in our modern day of democratic governance. Nana Kwame Ampadu, the legend of highlife music, the man with over 700 songs to his credit, once told a story of a law fashioned by the Animal Kingdom to ensure their ‘human rights’.  In the said Article 204, the Animal Kingdom had agreed that no animal should kill another animal for the purposes of feeding itself.

Obviously, the lions and the tigers were not impressed but they had to sign to accept the new law. With this law in force, some small animals thought they could make a mockery of the tiger as it grieved over its plight. The bat, taking undue advantage of the law, decides to use the open buccal cavity of the tiger as its playing ground. During one of such acts of the bat, the tiger shut its mouth and the bat got locked up inside it.

It was interpreted to mean that the tiger had breached the Article 204 and for which reason it was brought before a court to answer questions. Obviously, the tiger engaged a counsel who defended it on the grounds that it was the bat which provoked the tiger by using its buccal cavity as a playing ground. The court in the Animal Kingdom discharged and acquitted it.

The import of this story by Nana Ampadu is the fact that laws may be fashioned to protect all of us but if on the basis of laws that are deemed to protect us, we misconduct ourselves, we have no moral grounds to seek protection under the law. The issue of the three commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC) will rage on for so long as Ghanaians remain divided on what has happened. There are those who are preparing themselves to go to the courts to challenge what has happened.

Strangely, there are still an organized group ready to take to the streets to demonstrate against the dismissal of the three commissioners of the EC in the persons of Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the Chairperson, Mr. Amadu  Sulley, and Mrs. Georgina Opoku Amankwaah, based on the Constitution of the Fourth Republic. I am not a lawyer; the laws I am very conversant with were those I was thought at the School of Journalism relating to defamation and other related matters. Then at the graduate level, I learnt some portions of laws in relation to subject areas in development.

However, in modern times, laws are not written in the Elizabethan language and that makes it much easier for lay men like me to understand and appreciate the positions of the law unless the courts prove me wrong. Sometimes when I listen to some of the critics of the process and the outcome of the Chief Justice’s Committee and the decision taken by the President, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, I ask myself whether those people have resided in this country all this while, particularly ever since Mrs. Charlotte Osei was appointed the Chairperson of the EC.

Since the Fourth Republic, not once in the history of the EC had there been many controversies surrounding the Commission as a body and its Chairperson as an individual than we experienced under the outgone Chairperson of the EC. Some of these controversies were discussed in the open democratic space with the expectation that reason would prevail for the Commission to address same.

In a lot of instances, the Chairperson had shown the way to the courts to those who felt that some wrongs had been committed. Indeed, a few individuals went to court and had orders from the courts directing the EC to correct certain obvious wrongs. Some of the issues nearly had a negative effect on the 2016 general elections because of the timing. These were the issues known to us as Ghanaians.

Until recently, majority of us did not know that within the Commission itself, the Chairperson and her two deputies were at such serious loggerheads to the point that each one was somehow doing something very different from the other, even though their collective efforts were required to ensure effective functioning of the Commission.

The most pungent of allegations and accusations against the two ladies and the gentleman did not come from the petitioners whose petition triggered the President’s action via the Chief Justice’s Committee. The accusations of wrong doing from one another against the other ranged from registration malpractices, procurement misconduct, and financial impropriety to administrative failures. The three topmost individuals were not working together; suspicions among them were unknown to the populace.

Now let those complaining, whining and pining about the process and its outcomes take a moment and even put aside the petitions of the petitioners and ask themselves, if the three topmost public servants, working for the public were at such loggerheads, how were they going to manage the public interest in the national interest?  Under normal circumstances, which employer will retain its three topmost officers who are at each other’s throat?

Who would be dismissed and which of them would be retained?  For the effective management of the institution, will it not make sense to get all the three to resign their positions or get all of them dismissed? Before the decision of the President on the recommendations of the Chief Justice’s Committee, the Commission had not met for such a long time, according to the staff of the Commission.

How was the state going to manage the internal rifts among the three? Some of the issues had a lot to do with financial malpractices and blatant disregard for stated laws in procurement of varied forms which perhaps benefitted the individuals who singlehandedly executed those contracts? Any serious business person or board of directors would instantly dismiss all of them having the facts available.

Should the state have allowed them to stay in the face of the internal misconduct even if the petitioners had not petitioned the President? The essence of the laws that protect certain public officers is to insulate them from political interference in their work, but it does not allow those individual public officers to operate according to their individual whims and caprices.  Those protected officers are supposed to be men and women of high moral values and integrity to merit those legal protections.

Sadly, there are a few vociferous voices which are creating fear in the people that should the current President appoint new Commissioners to replace the three and those who may retire within the tenure of the President Akufo-Addo, this nation is going to be in flames. When President Rawlings appointed the members of the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 1992, and subsequently in 1993, Ghana did not burn.

There is gradually developing in this country, through the airwaves, the expression of opinions which are full of sound and fury without any significance.  The dishonesty in our social and political discourse is not helping this nation; it is rather dividing this nation the more. When some presidents appoint members of the Commission as prescribed by law, there is nothing wrong with that. When another President has the opportunity, through the same law to appoint members of the Commission, why should that be seen as an ‘Armageddon’ about to descend on the nation?

It is not for any frivolous reasons that a certain category of public officers has been given such protections by the Constitution. The nation cannot offer unfettered legal protection to public officers who are bereft of integrity and are simply morally bankrupt. Those who have ears let them hear.

My three tots, Daavi

By Kwesi Biney