Justice: Among the definitions of justice I got from my dictionary is: “fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions are made.”
My advice is that if you are a citizen of this great republic, and you believe that the justice in the national motto (Freedom and Justice), is more than mere decoration, I say it is time you re-arrange your thoughts, or re-arrange your brain cells. Just do whichever you find easier to do.
Almost daily, we read daily in the media how some citizens take the law into their own hands and act as their own arresting police officer, their own court of justice and personally execute any decision they made, often by visiting unbridled violence of their fellow citizens.
We cringe when we read these gory stories about citizens killing and maiming one another.
We automatically say: “There goes another mad man who has lost control of the natural inhibitors that should be native to every civilized human being.”
We all wondered how anyone could behave with such barbaric savagery in our civilized Ghana.
We have been brought up to think it abnormal not to rush to the authorities when we are affronted, offended, insulted or attacked.
We think it is only 'aboa,' 'kwasia,' or 'abodams,' who take the laws into their own hands.
Of course, our ideological institutions do their best to trumpet it into our heads how we are among the most peaceful, civilized and hospitable homo sapiens this part of the globe we call Earth.
It never occur to our senses to question whether people recourse to jungle justice because the very institutions we set up to settle disputes, have seriously let them down.
No, we often do not dabble in such philosophical ruminations; it is far easier to condemn.
Those that follow this column will know that we have consistently advocated that most of the problems that confront us in Africa is due largely to the schizophrenic institutions we continue to operate.
We cityfolks often forget that most of our people still live in our rural areas where they still, essentially, follow traditional rules and norms.
If we transport such people to our urbanized towns, they get lost simply because they get only perplexed when they try to figure out the incredibly complex and hard to understand complexity of the Western-styled lifestyles we have adopted.
Not that these foreign norms made any sense to even those of us that regard ourselves as civilized, educated beings.
And if we, city-dwellers, will honestly consider it, few of the things we take for granted make any sense at all.
Because the media shouts it, we believe that Ghana is a land of freedom and justice.
But how many of us who have had a dealing with our justice system will consider it fair, just or even reasonable?
How many citizens who have taken cases to Police stations or the courts will truly attest that they came out satisfied?
Certainly, not yours truly. And you might also have a change of heart after reading this story.
On my last trip to Europe, I brought a Hyundai H200 van to the country.
It cost close to GHC7, 000 to clear it from Tema port; some of it money borrowed from friends.
I offered it for sale - my editor generously gave me free space to advertise it. I also placed the advert on many of the social media I browse.
The vehicle was placed at a Filling Station parking sprinkled with generous FOR SALE posters.
There is a wide culvert between the Filling station and the main road.
On Sunday the 28th of April 2013, I was in the house when I received a call that an accident had occurred involving the van.
The time was around 7pm.
Was the caretaker driving it?
No, the car was stationery where it was parked.
Sunday relaxation totally spoilt, I hustled into cloths and rushed there.
It was a spectacle straight from a badly-scripted movie. A Hyundai H100 with registration number GR 593 Y, driven by one Patrick Donkor, had badly damaged the front of the parked vehicle. Totally wrecked were the radiator, the grill, the windscreen, the lamps, fenders and lots of other things.
Mr. Patrick Donkor's van also ran and destroyed a telephone kiosk and the front of a clothing shop.
It was Sunday evening, the sun was still up and there was no cloud whatever. Visibility was clear.
And who was the driver that had caused so much mayhem?
An elderly man was pointed out to me.
So, that was the Mr. Patrick Donkor. A woman, I later learnt was his wife, stood at his side. Her face was a register of intense fury; she cursed the husband with some vehemence.
I started to walk towards them, but had to stop because the man smelled like a distillery.
He was TOTALLY DRUNK! He even had problem registering what was going on around him.
The wife was screaming accuses at him. Both husband and wife wore black funeral dresses.
There were also strips of red cloths tied around Mr. Patrick Donkor's van. I gathered that the couple were returning from a funeral where, obviously, Mr. Donkor had taken advantage of generous fee booze.
Funerals! Aha, another of those incomprehensible cultural traits to which we have become addicted.
No one can say that we Africans are not funny animals.
Far be it for us to take proper care of our relations when they are alive. And heaven forbid that we show concern when they are sick, but as soon as they die, we scramble to give them 'befitting' (of what, we never ask) burials.
We go into great debt to provide food the likes the deceased never tasted and expensive drinks with price tags like telephone numbers. We buy expensive caskets for the person that probably died sleeping on a mat, and we hire the biggest limousines to chauffeur the dead who rode only in trotros in her entire life.
So like the good people we are, every weekend we abandon all and troop to our villages to send relations away with great fanfare.
And like the true gluttons that we are, we consume too much food and drank more liquor than is good for us. At these funerals, we dance ourselves silly and fornicate like the ancient people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Fueled by enough ethanol to launch Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles, drivers like Patrick Donkor feel omnipotent as soon as they sit behind the wheel.
The results are the weekly carnage we continue to tabulate on our roads as we insanely kill ourselves.
The first question that agitated my mind was how on earth could Patrick Donkor, in his state, risk the life of woman he married in this recklessness?
A man can decide to become suicidal after pouring too much fermented grape or other chemicals into his own body; that is his own palaver.
But why risk innocent people's lives by such stupid 'enjoyment'?
We reported the case at the Amanfro police station near Kasoa. We were told that Galilea (near Kasoa) where the accident occurred was under the jurisdiction of the SCC District Police (on the Accra – Winneba road) Command.
The officers at the Amanfro police station were very professional and they attended to us in manners that gladdens our heart.
It was at the SCC police station that my respect for the Ghana Police Force took a serious nose-dive from which it has not recovered.
For reasons best known to him, the officer assigned to the case, a certain Inspector KK Frimpong, was an ill-mannered, truly nasty character who behaved like the world is against him and that he must act accordingly.
He was a most offensive person, and he carried his belligerent personality even to his fellow officers. Let us not waste too much time on his various display of bad manners.
The case was finally brought before the Laterbieokoshie Court on Thursday, May 9, 2013. We were asked to be present at 9am.
We spent the entire day at the court. After 4pm, we were told that the case has been adjourned until Tuesday, May 14, 2013, with absolutely no explanation at all.
In this age and time, why do I need to waste a whole day of my life doing nothing but sat at a court!
And I was not alone!
How on earth do we expect to make progress in our national life when time means absolutely nothing to us?
Although we love to wear the most expensive watches that money can buy, we think nothing of wasting time like it were some renewable commodity.
You can begin to understand why we do not seem to be getting anywhere in this country.
We were advised to come earlier on the next adjournment day. We woke up early, caught the early buses and got to court before 8am.
We sat through until about 2pm when the case was finally called. It was then I received the jolt of my life when the only one charge was preferred against the driver: RECKLESS DRIVING.
The damage to my van was mentioned in passing because I have been so insistent, but there was absolutely no mention of the two properties the driver destroyed. And absent from the charge sheet was any mention of the total and absolute intoxication of the driver.
The one count drew a fine of GHC600. Judgment was that I should seek remedy from the insurance company.
Naturally, I was furious.
I questioned Inspector KK Frimpong how he could stoop so low, and pointedly asked him if his conscience never bother him. He muttered some inanities and walked away.
How could the POLICE, who are supposed to know better, do this? How could the organisation, whose top guns tell us that they are busy fighting vices in our behalf, descend into such gutter levels?
If our police, (for whatever reasons) so deliberately muddled a straight-forward case such as this, whom do we blame when citizens appear not to have any respect for it and decide to take the laws into their own hand?
The Motto of the Ghana Police is:” SERVICE WITH INTEGRITY,” but there was absolutely no shred of integrity in the conduct of Inspector KK Frimpong!
I did not ask that the driver, Patrick Donkor, be strangled, but a 600 cedis is far too low for the vast damage he caused by his drunkenness.
What lesson could he learn, or do we expect him to learn, from that feeble punishment?
Whom do we blame if tomorrow Patrick Donkor go to another funeral, get drunk and kill innocent Ghanaians?
Patrick Donkor's manager paid his fine and they went away and left me with a totally damaged vehicle with no hope of getting it fixed anytime soon.
If you think the travail is over, please think again.
According to the logic of Ghanaian Justice, the state has completed its part by 'successfully' prosecuting the criminal side of the case - at least that is what the police officers told me.
The state has got its justice but to get mine; I have to file a civil suit against the driver.
And how do I get to do that?
I need to get a lawyer to file the suit as soon as possible.
And what if I don't have money to pay a lawyer?
This is getting serious.
I made some phone calls. Yeah, a lawyer explained to me, it is possible but…
But first thing first. I need to get a Police Report and bring it together with pictures of the van before and after the accident.
And how do I go about getting a Police Report?
I have to write an application to the District Commander of the station handling the case. I then have to take the letter to the MTTU office at Tudu in Accra, pay a GHC20 fee, obtain and attach the receipt and take that to the Commander at SCC Police Station.
Freedom and Justice, indeed.
I rushed to Accra, paid and obtained the receipt and rushed back to SCC Police Station. I was told that same officer had to handle the application.
Oh, no. Not KK Frimpong again!
Yes, it is.
And where he is?
When we finally located him, he was at his usual nasty funk best. He rather was angry because I was incensed by his performance at the court the day before. He was not going to process the application. No, he was going to take his sweet time.
Gosh. This is a guy who receive his salary from the taxes I paid!
I possess the intellectual capacity and the self-restraint to deal with the gross injustice and the buffoonery of officers like Inspector KK Frimpong, but it is not every citizen that could exercise the same self-control.
My two days in court was personally depressing for me because it confirms what I have consistently advocated on these pages: viz that we live in great delusions in this country.
We lead a life of lies, deception and hypocrisy. We confuse appearance for essence and woefully fail to take into account that a life of lies cannot be lived for ever.
Our elders say that the house built with spittle will be fell by dew. We ask for serious trouble if we do not reform our institutions to make them serve our people better.
Our elders also say that if we chase a goat to the wall, it will bite. When we push our citizens beyond the threshold of their tolerance, we should expect them to go bonkers now and then.
Mr. Donkor's manager finally took the car for repairs and it was not until September 10, 2013 that I got my van back.
That was one hundred and thirty-six days after a drunkard damaged my parked vehicle.
No one pay for all the expenses I incurred by the drunkenness of Mr. Donkor. No one offered any apology for all inconveniences and anguish I went through because an irresponsible citizen decided to drink more than was good for him. And we talk of FREEDOM AND JUSTICE.