Two names remain in the race to be the next Chief Justice, sources close to the Council of State have told The Statesman, with Tawiah Modibo Ocran or Georgina Woode most likely to assume the position.
The Statesman says also still in with an outside chance to head Ghana's judiciary is Samuel Kofi Date-Bah. It is now down to the President to make the final decision.
The remaining three have been whittled down from 13 Supreme Court potentials; the others were Justices William A Atuguba, Sophia A B Akuffo, Theodore Adzoe, S Allan Brobbey, Seth Twum, Julius Ansah, R T Aninakwa, Sophia Ophelia Adjeibea Adinyira and Samuel Kwadwo Asiamah.
The newspaper says at the time of going to press, the smart money appeared to be on Justice Woode; if appointed, she would be the first female Chief Justice in Ghana.
In a country where 51 percent of the population are women; where rural women account for about 70 percent of total national food production, and only 19 out of the 230 Members of Parliament are women, the appointment of a woman CJ would seem to come as a very natural occurrence, and has been supported by several leading women's right advocates.
Speaking several weeks ago to The Statesman, Justina Donkor, a legal practitioner, said: "I know Woode can handle the job just as the late Justice George Kingsley Acquah, this is evident in the excellent manner she conducted the Commission of Enquiry set up to investigate the narcotic case.”
Others warned that a decision must not be made on gender alone, and praised the appointment of Justice Woode over the other two female Supreme Court judges - Sophia A B Akuffo and Sophia Ophelia Adjeibea Adinyira - for her experience, firmness and independent mind.
Justice Woode conducted last year's enquiry into the disappearance of 77 packets of cocaine from the MV Benjamin on April 26 2006, and other narcotics-related issues.
It would also be recalled that Justice Woode was first nominated to the Supreme Court in 2003, at the time of the Fast Track Review Case, alongside the late Justice Afreh – a nomination she initially turned down.
Her opposition is tough, however, as she is up against Prof Modibo Ocran – highly regarded for his intellect and succinct judgments, he was specifically called back to Ghana from the US when he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004.
Prof Modibo Ocran's distinguished career includes membership in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa from 1978 to1981, serviced as Chief Executive of Ghana Investments Center and membership on the Capital Investments Board in Accra, Ghana.
He was a member of the Constitutional Commission of Ghana in 1978 to1979. He gave 20 years of distinguished service to The University of Akron School of Law in the US and retired in 2004 as the Dean's Club Research Professor. During a faculty improvement leave in 1994-95, he was the senior political affairs officer with the United Nations Protection Force for the former Yugoslavia.
One factor which might count against him in the eyes of some hardliners in the New Patriotic Party is his Nkrumaist past, and involvement with the CPP during his student days at Legon in the 1960s.
Prof Modibo Ocran was one of the CPP-linked students at the University of Ghana whose notebooks were taken away by rampaging soldiers in the wake of the ignominious CIA-sponsored 1966 coup against Kwame Nkrumah. Modibo associates say he even had to go underground before he later resurfaced to pass his examinations at the Legon Law Faculty.
Sources close to the judiciary have however described him as a strong candidate in the CJ race; and his age may act in his favour. In his mid-60s, Prof Modibo Ocran probably has about five years left at the bar; whilst at 60 Justice Wood could have ten.
Meanwhile Date-Bah is the third candidate still in with a chance. Known as a legal purist and widely regarded as one of Ghana's finest legal brains – and is reputed to be the first person to gain a First Class classification in Law from the University of Ghana. He came to the Supreme Court from the Commonwealth Secretariat, London where he was the Special Adviser, Legal.
The last Chief Justice, George Kingsley Acquah, passed away on March 25. Since then, Justice Francois Yaonansu Kpegah has been acting, in line with Article 144(6) of the 1992 Constitution, which states that in the event of the Chief Justice's office being declared vacant, the next in order of seniority takes charge until a substantive CJ is appointed.
"Where the office of Chief Justice is vacant, or where the Chief Justice is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his office, those functions shall be performed by the most senior of the justices of the Supreme Court," the Constitution states.
Credit: The Statesman