The historic hearing of the election petition which was telecasted live on television and radio, courtesy the Chief Justice after popular demand, has really educated most Ghanaians on courtroom proceedings.
It was common to see and hear how legal terms and words such as “my lords, learned friend, pink sheets and over-voting” has become favorite signposts on vehicles, as well as catchphrases in different spoken languages, all because of the massive national interest and following in the case that went before the Supreme Court.
But, one unanswered question in my opinion on the outcome is what does the common person makes out of the final verdict. Particularly, grass root political supporters and ordinary Ghanaians who may have never thought of bothering their minds with the complications of legal language and proceedings. But as a result of their political interest and heightened security tension, they became fanatics and apostles of interpreting the case to their own understanding and enjoyment as they glued to television and radio to watch and listen every day.
To buttress the point, do these people really understood what Justice William Atuguba said on Thursday, August 29, 2013, when he read the Summary Judgment and gave further directive that: “In the circumstances, the overall effect is that the first respondent was validly elected and the petition is therefore dismissed. Our various judgments for the sake of convenience are handed over to the registrar of this court.”
The directive from the law lords evidently shown on television took even many legal luminaries aback, wondering for reasons to the judgment, as there were question marks boldly hovering around their faces in the court room. At least, I have heard one smart position against the Supreme Court style of delivery the verdict. The promoter argued that whilst the case was a landmark and had a massive following through live broadcast, the Justices ought to have given reasons for their verdict through the same medium.
I share the view of the promoter. Because among the decisions compelling the Chief Justice to grant live coverage of the petition was to make the proceedings public in order to reduce anxiety and misinformation as the hearing went on. However, it never crosses nobody’s mind that the reasons that will go into the final verdict would become so scarce to find before one can understand and appreciate why the respondents won and the petitioners lost.
Admittedly the Justices’ decision is supreme and binds on all Ghanaians. Like they say, the law is in their bosom! But, many Ghanaians would now be at the mercy of various interpretations and twist and turns by politicians and the media as we wait patiently for the Court to release the whole verdict to the public, six days after declaring the judgment.
Still compounding the confusion of ordinary citizens, it was commendable as the court proceedings was interpreted simultaneously into various Ghanaian languages, as well as sign language to the benefits of the visually impaired and those lacking basic understanding in English or legal language during the hearing.
For these people whose interest and following on the case was inflamed by the live broadcast, they will have also appreciated the reasons on the verdict to be covered live on television and radio and interpreted into the languages they really understand.
Ghanaians by our nature are peace loving people and I do not ascribe to those who refer to our civility as meek or coward. Last week Judgment Thursday had a semblance of a public holiday, as the usual hustling of commercial activities came to a halt. What we saw was the true Ghanaian sense of tolerance at displayed. The police were left only in town blaring loud siren looking for trouble where there was none. I saw many people describing the police aggressive nature as unnecessary causing of fear and panic.
Going to town after the verdict, I engaged some people to solicit their views on the court’s decision. Here are sampling opinions from the streets, showing the level of understanding and conclusions ordinary persons attribute to the verdict read by Justice Atuguba.
Yaw Antobam, 58, resident of Dome in Accra who is a Lotto vendor said: “There is no way a court will not rule in favor of a sitting President. I don’t care about any reasons, I knew very well from the onset that the court would never rule against a sitting President.”
Another person, Ernest Chanta, 44 and a trotro driver wondered why after listening to all the evidence the petitioners brought before the Court; they could not win their case. He said: “I don’t believe in the Judgment, because after all the evidence which the Chairman of the Electoral Commission himself admitted, how come the petitioners lost their case.”
For others, though what they care most was who won at the Supreme Court. They wished the final day [verdict] could have lasted a little longer. Simply hoping the Justices could have read their judgment in details in order to get live interpretations into the various languages as it was been done on radio and television.
All said and done, the election petition is over and the first petitioner has declared he won’t seek a review for the sake of peace and cohesion of our country. Let all hail President Mahama and pledge our loyalty to him as our validly elected President. After all, the aim of becoming a President is to advance the development of Ghana irrespective of who occupies the gilded throne.
The writer is a journalist at The New Crusading GUIDE
Source: Philip Forson
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