Finally, as Americans are wont to say, “The Fat Lady Has Sung,” the Supreme Court has handed down its long-overdue verdict in the Obetsebi-Lamptey v. Okudzeto-Ablakwa and Omane-Boamah. We also learn that, indeed, the entire National Democratic Congress (NDC) political machine and the Mills–Mahama government, represented by the Attorney-General, were party to the suit. And so, really, figuratively speaking, the Obetsebi-Lamptey case was an epic contest between the NDC and the main opposition New Patriotic Party (See “Jake’s Bungalow Acquisition Saga – Supreme Court Dismisses Case” Modernghana.com/Daily Graphic 5/22/12).
As it turns out, it was just the proverbial creation of a storm in a teacup. Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, a former and current National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party, had earlier on rightly sought to have the suit dismissed by the Supreme Court, to no avail, on the grounds that it properly fell under the jurisdiction of the High Court. In the response rejecting Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey’s appeal, the Supreme Court also rightly indicated that as a Court-Of-Last-Resort vis-à-vis legal and constitutional interpretation, it had a bounden duty and obligation to both the State and the public to take on the case.
And this is precisely what the Court-Of-Last-Resort did on Monday, May 21, 2012, when by a majority decision of 6-3, the court emphatically concluded that, indeed, the plaintiffs, led in evidence by the Attorney-General, had woefully failed to prove that the respondent was guilty of a “conflict of interest, cronyism and arbitrariness” in the acquisition of the property at issue, to wit, No. 2 Mungo Street in the Ridge Residential Area of Accra.
Conversely, the court affirmed Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey’s contention of having legally acquired the property as a private citizen through the legitimate instrumentation of the Lands Commission, an autonomous public body that acts on behalf of the President of the Republic of Ghana, as constitutionally mandated. And on the latter score, it is very significant to observe that earlier on (5/11/12), this writer had written and published an article titled “Obetsebi-Lamptey Case Ought to Set Judicial Precedent,” in which he argued about the necessity of the Supreme Court setting a precedent over the management and disposition of lands held by the State in public trust. In its ruling, this was precisely what the court did in categorically affirming that “the verdict was not in support of the practice whereby public office holders, through cronyism, arbitrariness and other means, exploited their position for personal gain.” And so, indeed, the court has spoken and resoundingly in favor of transparency and the depoliticization of public landed property acquisition.
The judges also intimated that, indeed, attempts might have been made by the plaintiffs and their surrogates to politically influence and even possibly usurp the autonomous powers of the Lands Commission. But the case may also have been partially vacated on technical grounds, with the judges “pointing out a number of irregularities in [a] document presented by the Attorney-General, [purported to be] cabinet minutes [which] did not bear a letterhead, nor was it certified, therefore, could not be said to be genuine.”
Needless to say, the government-backed plaintiffs have themselves to blame for such gross sloppiness in the presentation of their case. The fact of the matter is that the plaintiffs and the Attorney-General had more than ample time to prepare and present a more professionally vetted and worthy documentary evidence to back up their case.
We hope that no quixotic measures will be further initiated by shamefaced Messrs. Okudzeto-Ablakwa and Omane-Boamah, in a desperate bid to recovering a modicum of their lost credibility. For that would amount to crossing the line between a genuine grievance and a patent case of harassment. And if that happens, Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey would be perfectly within his rights to vigorously lash back at his detractors with a multi-billion dollar suit.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Selected Political Writings” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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