The revelations made by Anas Aremeyaw Anas on corruption within the judiciary are, without doubt, the most explosive ever made in this country.
Usually, we only get to hear about public malfeasance on this scale after the offenders have left office and their political enemies, anxious to justify their existence by blackening the names of their predecessors, make a selective release of material from the official files they have inherited.
In the Anas case, the evidence collected was done independently of politicians – or so one assumes – and has been released to the public solely to enable the offenders to be punished and the inerasable lesson taught that those to whom power is entrusted must exercise it with integrity, or risk being consumed by exposure and the public anger it brings.
I am slightly perturbed though, by the methodology Anas has employed in releasing his material. Ideally, what investigative journalists do is to gather their evidence, cross-check it thoroughly to make sure it is accurate, and then publish it.
Sometimes, they may ask those who would be affected by the publication of the material to comment on it, and if they find the explanations or other comments relevant, they may include it while publishing the material.
But sometimes, the material is so damaging that the person concerned may use legal processes to try and suppress it altogether. In the case of material that has been unearthed from classified documents, prosecution of the journalist(s) might be used as a threat to try and get the material supressed.
Therefore, many investigative journalists start off on the premise that AUTHORITY — per se — is the enemy, and that alerting AUTHORITY of what the journalist has uncovered may be the surest way of destroying the chances of the evidence being used to produce the punishment or reforms the journalist wishes to see effected.
That methodology inevitably puts journalists and AUTHORITY at cross-purposes. Some journalists believe that such a state of tension is the only healthy one that should govern the relationship between journalists and AUTHORITY. The reason is that the tentacles of AUTHORITY are numerous and all-pervading, and are more likely to be used to protect AUTHORITY figures than to punish them.
The exposure of the Watergate scandal in America is the best example of how far these AUTHORITY tentacles can extend. When it was discovered at a court hearing that some of the “plumbers” who had “burgled” (for which read “bugged”) the Watergate building, in Washington, had flourished telephone numbers that led to the White House, and the Washington Post’s reporters tried to find out what connection the plumbers could possibly have with the White House, they triggered a tenacious attempt by AUTHORITY to “cover up” the burglary.
This “cover-up” grew and grew and grew until it enveloped a lot of people in AUTHORITY in Washington at the time. So powerful were these AUTHORITY figures that the informer who fed the Washington Post journalists with information, “Deep Throat”, needed to use very audacious secret methods to communicate with them.
He warned them that the CIA was involved; so was the FBI; as were Nixon’s Attorney-General, John Mitchell; and Nixon’s most important White House staffers, John Dean, John Erlichmann and H R Haldeman. And – h – Nixon himself! Eventually, Nixon had to resign. Just imagine what would have happened if the Washington Post had gone to Nixon and presented him with the evidence and asked him to “clean up” his administration by sacking members of his staff who had broken the law!
The Pentagon Papers revelations by Daniel Ellsberg were also nearly suppressed by AUTHORITY on the grounds that what the documents contained were the property of AUTHORITY that had been improperly purloined. It was only the adroit handling of the documents by Ellsberg and his associates that enabled the contents of the dynamite contained in the documents to become public knowledge.
In the Anas case, what seems to have happened is this: Anas has chosen a two-track mechanism for publicising the material on the corrupt judges: (1) he has given the material to AUTHORITY, by sending a petition to the presidency and the office of the Chief Justice, asking the two most important offices in the land to view the material and initiate action to punish those involved.
(2) Simultaneously, he has given what appears to be limited access to parts of the material to the local media, which are releasing it piecemeal. This is an ingenious way of ensuring that AUTHORITY simply cannot adopt the usual lackadaisical attitude to it; in other words, it won’t be enough for AUTHORITY to say, (in the memorable words of Super OD): “We shall look into it!” and promptly go to sleep over the issue. and throw the tapes and related documents into the bin.
But in doing this, Anas and the team that is assisting him, might find that by over-extending the use of the material, they might have inadvertently created a smokescreen over it. Today we hear that Anas has been given immunity by the Attorney-General’s office. What for? We don’t know. We debate that.
Tomorrow, we hear that the Attorney-General is to prosecute 22 of the more junior of the judicial personnel involved, after they had been interrogated by a committee of the judicial council. What about the senior ones? Have impeachment proceedings been contemplated against them in line with the Constitution, or what? We speculate on, and debate, that aspect as well.
The day after tomorrow, we hear that some of the judges are going to court to challenge the evidence from Anas that the judicial council used to suspend them. Ah, so? But who will be the judges who will judge the cases against their fellow judges? What faith can the public place in judgements over judges by their ”brother judges”?
Judges are so important in our setup that anything concerning them must be totally open and squeaky clean. Having gone to all that trouble to collect evidence, Anas, in my opinion, should have published it first, before giving the material to AUTHORITY, upon request.
Right now, it can be argued that AUTHORITY has been given the means to only go as far as damage limitation requires and no further.
But the logic of what Anas has so far published suggests that corruption is so widespread in the judiciary that all arms of it – including the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court – ought to be thoroughly investigated.
For by hindsight, what are we to make of the Victoria Hammah allegation — which was so easily thrown aside because the retired judge asked to investigate it had no power to subpoena her to give evidence — that a Minister in the Mahama Government, had gone “to see” certain judges of the Supreme Court to ensure that they ruled in favour of Mr John Dramani Mahama in the election petition case of 2013?
However, a commission of enquiry into the judiciary, if it is to receive public confidence, would need to be carried out by judges drawn from external — maybe Commonwealth — sources.
There is a very good precedent for that: in November 1955, a judge from Nigeria, Mr Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu, was brought to investigate allegations of corruption made against members of Ghana’s ruling Convention People’s Party (CPP) over their use of public funds in the hands of the Cocoa Purchasing Corporation (CPC). Jibowu was sent by the British Secretary although the ”Gold Coast” AUTHORITIES had attempted to “swerve”” complainants by assuring them they would deal with it themselves.
The British Colonial Secretary realised that the local authorities had tentacles that extended to the local judiciary, and therefore, no useful purpose would be served by asking the local judges to investigate the members of the government.
A commission of enquiry manned by judges from outside Ghana would be able to ask for information relating to miscarriages of justice that have occurred in Ghana up to say, the past 10 years. (Any longer period might become unwieldy.) The commission would have the right to carry out preliminary studies of petitions submitted to it, in order to week out those that are frivolous.
In trying to purge the judiciary, let us not forget that judges are more powerful than any other AUTHORITY. So they ought to command the respect and even reverence of every single citizen. It is no use throwing up our arms and saying, “We know that there are corrupt judges, but what can we do about it?”
Anas Aremeyaw Anas has given us the bow and arrows with which to “shoot” down corruption in our judiciary. Where and how we shall shoot the arrows is beyond the remit of Anas, but definitely within the ambit of the Ghanaian citizenry as a whole.