President John Dramani Mahama scribbled on a fresh page of history in the annals of the country with his decision to remit the sentences of the three gentlemen, Alistair Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu “Mugabe” Maase.
These gentlemen, since the advent of their Supreme Court contempt case, have popularly become known as the ‘Montie three’. The President’s decision to literally reduce their 4-month sentence takes it legal foundations from the President’s prerogative of mercy as stipulated in Article 72 of the 1992 constitution. The President’s decision to literally reduce their 4-month sentence takes it legal foundations from the President’s prerogative of mercy as stipulated in Article 72 of the 1992 constitution.
To all intents and purposes, the President satisfied the constitutional requirements that come with such a decision. The Research and Advocacy Platform (RAP) initiated the signing of a petition which garnered a substantial number of signatures including “high-powered” ones like that of the Human Rights Activist turned Gender Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, Education Minister Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman and Foreign Minister, Hanna Tetteh. The petition was forwarded to the council of state and then appropriately, they offered advice to the President. All along, keen watchers of Ghana’s political space felt that a grand scheme had been set in motion to free the “biegya” trio irrespective of the consequences it may have on the power relations and the friction thereof if the President freed them.
In the midst of the arguments and counter arguments about whether it was proper or not for the President to call on his Article 72 powers, his lawyer, Tony Lithur advised that the President must take a decision on the matter, well aware of the political ramifications and timing-a few months to a crucial election as well as the spin that could be put on the decision by his political detractors in the heat of the campaign season. At that point, the President was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
On one side, deep currents were bellowing from within his party for him to stand up for one of his own especially when the said ‘Pampaso’ programme is one essentially put together to propagate the gospel of the incumbent government. On the other hand, the President was being impressed upon to allow them serve the full haul of the sentence if not for anything, at least as a mark of respect to the arm of government whose clear-cut mandate is to interpret the laws of the country for the purposes of creating a just and fair society. The novelty of the President’s decision is one that calls for some analysis. The President did not pardon the trio in an outright manner neither did he allow them to serve the entire sentence. This middle way tinkering of the President’s article 72 powers in my opinion shows that the President did not want to get this decision wrong politically neither did he want to flagrantly disregard the judiciary’s orders. In the fourth republican era, this is probably the first use of such a power of remission and it is interesting how it was craftily used to implement the President’s balancing act.
As they say in politics, all decisions have consequences whether good or bad.The decision, for me, represents how the President sought to please his party followers without so much regard for the precedent he was setting whether good or bad. But I can understand him, In an election year, in an African Country like Ghana, decisions that will gore the ox of grassroot faithful are not welcome. At least that is how most leaders under the fourth republic have done things in the heat of the electioneering season. But then again, governance is not only about taking political decisions, it is also about taking decisions that can properly fit to be part of one’s legacy as leader. After being left off the hook in this manner, how will Mugaabe Maase and his crew conduct affairs on Pampaso. Will they be more vitriolic? And if they are, will that not be justified? After all, they have been to Nsawam and back for propounding the good works of JM and in their darkest night, he came through for them.
In my humble view, I submit that even though the President’s decision is smart politically, it is a recipe for the further degeneration of our already poisoned political media landscape ahead of this year’s elections. This will not augur well for our beloved country whose electoral democracy is on the cusp of blossoming into another success story for the African Continent in December. I just wish a bit more tinkering in the spirit of the national interest had gone into this decision of the President to remit the sentence of the Montie trio.