The excerpt below is culled from the speech delivered by the late distinguished Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice J. N. K. Taylor, at the Annual Conference of the Ghana Bar Association in Kumasi on 4th October, 19881. The contents echo the dilemmas of lawyers today as it did almost a third of a century ago when the speech was made. By revisiting some of these speeches from the sages of old, it will hopefully throw light on where we have come from, where we are today, and the urgent need to chart a new paradigm for ourselves. Apparently, ‘sycophancy’, ‘fawning for favours,’ ‘shameless ruffians,’ ‘merchants of evil’ and ‘political parasites’ in our body-politic are elements rooted in history. Happy reading.
“The lawyer is a necessary adjunct to the machinery for the proper and fair administration of law and justice. The prevalent public disapproval of his role when he defends an unpopular man or cause is not healthy for the law and does not advance the course of justice… It is my well-considered opinion that this belief and erroneous view so embarrassing to lawyers, creates a dilemma and conscience crisis and if not checked or eliminated from the body-politic may deter the good lawyer from representing unpopular causes. And in a country like Ghana we must appreciate that sycophancy and pandering to the official view is fast becoming fashionable and often the common past-time of the failures in our society who walk the corridors of power, kowtowing to officialdom, fawning for favours and largesse and fanning the flames of tendentious popular views which they imagine the wielders of power are probably holding. It seems to me that every leader we have had from the indefatigable Nkrumah, to the revolutionary JJ have not been isolated from these political parasites, and the downfall of many a leader can be traced to over-dependence on their irresponsible and selfish antics. Perhaps we need an institutional mechanism to protect our national leaders from the dilemma posed by the machinations of these shameless ruffians. This is necessary because by the experience of hind-sight it is possible to know the reality that motivates and is behind these merchants of evil and nation wreckers. Consider their past exploits in studied sycophancy and their slogan slinging expertise reminiscent of the horrors of the Nazi propaganda machine: note how they attempt to manipulate our leaders: Nkrumah is the Osagyefo who never dies, Busia is the unchallenged champion of our rural folks, Colonel Acheampong is the 13th January man who will catapult us to capture the commanding heights of the economy and, more recently, the sonorous and endearing appellation JJ, was blasphemously translated to ‘Junior Jesus’.
We must beware of these elements in our society who will seduce legality and exploit our dilemmas. With their holier than others antics, virtue can easily be denigrated by them. It will then surely degenerate and sustain irreparable damage in the hands of such rascals. The damage they thus cause may take generations to put right, because the popular view, it must be remembered, is not necessarily right and in the so-called old democracies and even in Ghana, it is not unknown for popular views to be discredited by the passage of time and the way paved for the right but previously unpopular view.”
Postscript: In the 4th Republic, we have had our fair share of the slogan slinging expertise; ‘Kufour, the gentle giant,’ ‘Prof. Mills, the ‘Asomdwoehene,’ ‘JDM, the gentleman,’ ‘Nana Show Boy, Champion President’. Even the try-and-miss types have not been left in the cold: ‘Paa Kwesi, Edwumawura’… Do you remember any others?
1. Source: For the full speech delivered by Justice Taylor at the GBA Conference, see: "Dilemmas of Law and Lawyers in Contemporary Ghana" (1987-88) 16 RGL 19