HATS OFF TO MARTIN AMIDU
By CAMERON DUODU
First, unfinished business: I was in the process of relating the adventure of a son of mine in connection with a horse called Lucifer at a gymkhana, when an unexpected occurrence rudely intervened and prevented me from publishing a column last week. I don’t like short-changing my readers, so here is the rest of the story:
Lucifer had so far performed all the tasks of the gymkhana creditably when all of a sudden, he darted towards the fence that enclosed the paddock in which the gymkhana was being held.
He didn’t stop when my son pulled hard on the reins.
So strong was his urge to go through the wooden fence that my son was pressed hard against the wood and sustained abrasions on his arms. He jumped off the horse before he could become more seriously injured.
It was then that he discovered the explanation for Lucifer’s strange behaviour. Against all the rules, the horse-boys had left a mare [female horse] loose just outside the paddock. And Lucifer had smelt her. Female horses emit a scent when they are on heat and it drives male horses insane. Lucifer had been driven mad by this mare’s smell, had unleashed his enormous weapon, and was trying to push it through the fence to answer the call the mare was transmitting into the air. It was only when the horse-boys realised what was happening and drove the mare back into its stable that Lucifer settled down.
What I have never understood is this: why was it only Lucifer, amongst all the stallions at the gymkhana, who had answered the mare’s call in such a spectacular fashion? I suppose the day I can answer that question, I shall have understood Nature and the secrets it surrounds us with: testosterone/oestrogen levels in males and females and above all, why the sexual urge is so strong that when it hits a trained horse, it actually forgets that there is a bit in its mouth that hurts when it is pulled hard back!
The Supreme Court of Ghana has a lot to thank Mr Martin Amidu for. As the election petition being considered by one of its panels has dragged through the Court, a sense of sheer puzzlement has enveloped many in our country. The election of a President is, in the highly over-centralised administration we now run, of the utmost political importance.
Yet, before the eyes of the whole world – on live television, we have seen our Supreme Court judges behave as if they’ve never heard the word “urgent”.
They’ve been allowing questioning of witnesses that at times sounded, in quality, like passages from Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
Were pink sheets actually pink? Did they have a serial number? Did the serial numbers correspond with the code of the polling station at which the pink sheet was issued? When added together with other pink sheets, did the number tally with A, B, or C? Repeat these questions nine thousand times nine hundred times ninety times nine times! And when you are told that even though the numbers may not tally, the “analysis” of the pink sheets had been based on numbers captured on computers and which could, therefore not be duplicated, bring out another pink sheet and ask the same question again and again and again.
Ten days or more of this? People were beginning to wonder whether the term, “the law is an ass”, wasn’t an understatement. As is normally the case when people are angry, Judges’ interruptions and non-interruptions – a normal idiosyncrasy that has long irritated lawyers who have amassed experience at the bar — now began to be put through the prism of party politics. Some interruptions were “intimidatory”; others “clarified knotty points”; yet others exposed bias in favour of, and against particular lawyers! Damaging perceptions, for what is the use of a Supreme Court that the people of a country believe is politically biased?
Would the case ever end? Had the Supreme Court judges completely lost track of the serious political theatre going on daily, outside their Court? Ministers were negotiating contracts; the President was making official visits abroad; markets were burning down. What would be left of Ghana by the time the case was decided?
Just as everyone was reverting to the Ghana “default position”, namely, “Give it to God; His mercy shall see us through, regardless!” out comes a judgement from a panel of the same Supreme Court that tells us: ”Hey, have patience! All is not lost!”
Martin Amidu, former Attorney-General and one-man campaigner extra-ordinaire, has won his case in the Supreme Court against Waterville Company and is set to retrieve for Ghana, over $40 million paid to the company on a frivolous claim.
Amidu had asked the Supreme Court to order the refund of the money paid to Waterville and another C51 million paid to Alfred Woyome. But because Woyome is
already appearing before junior courts on the same issue, the Supreme Court stayed a pronouncement on Amidu’s claims against him.
This judgement of the Supreme Court has done a great deal to revive the trust that the people of Ghana repose in their judicial system. The people now know that the judiciary is not completely unaware of the“public interest” – especially as the Supreme Court took care to refer to the Ghana Legal Council, the necessity for disciplinary action to be taken against some of the people who helped Waterville to obtain the funds from the Ghana exchequer. According to the judgement of the Supreme Court – which the judges directed should be served on the disciplinary bodies of the legal establishment –some of the legal personnel involved in the case – at both the counsel and judicial levels –ought to be sanctioned for the way they closed their eyes to the frivolous fleecing of money from the public purse.
Of course, everyone is now praising Martin Amidu for taking it upon himself to retrieve the moneys wrongly paid to Waterville. But where were these praise-singers when Amidu was being hung out to dry by the President who had appointed him, as well as his own party and what he notably described as “the rented party press?”
The past year couldn’t have been easy for him. I wrote an article entitled “What exactly is misconduct?” when Amidu was peremptorily sacked by the late President John Atta Mills. I knew that the charge of “misconduct” was one of those nebulous terms used by guilty administrators who could not go into detail about why they were getting rid of an official whom they found it difficult to control.
What Amidu was supposed to do was to close his eyes tn the iniquities of his party colleagues involved in the fraud; take some cases to court which he had no intention of vigorously prosecuting; and find a formula that would satisfy the public relations objective of covering the exposed backside of the party money-guzzling machine. Instead of which Amidu said, “Not on your life! Look, we have no regular supplies of good, drinking water; our electricity supply is patchy; our children go to school under trees; some of our hospitals have become nothing but mortuaries; no; I shall not condone the money that could alleviate such problems being mulcted by a few individuals, whoever they are.”
People rained insults on Amidu: he was not a “team player”; he was “a political turncoat”; he was “an egomaniac who did not care about whom he embarrassed, so long as he got his own way!” Such words can hurt, especially when one is a sensitive soul whose only desire is to serve one’s fellow humans.
Fortunately, Amidu stuck it out. He will go down in history of one of the bravest, most principled legal minds Ghana has ever produced. For it is easy to meld with the crowd. Whereas if “a tree stands out, it is easy for a storm to break it down.”
Two lawyers come readily to mind as being of his ilk – Dr J B Danquah, who fought against the Preventive Detention Act and fought and fought until he died in prison in 1965, and Dr E V C De Graft Johnson, who held a one-man demonstration on a matter of legal principle outside the Supreme Court buildings – also in the 1960s. The list is hardly exhaustive, of course, as I am not a lawyer and can only write about what catches my eye. I urge lawyers who value principle in the pursuit of their profession to seek and disseminate information about people of that calibre, so that Ghanaians can learn that truly exceptional as Martin Amidu is, he’s by no means unique in the annals of the legal profession in Ghana.