Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ recent revelation that a large number of Ghana’s state-appointed judges are as corrupt as the criminals on the receiving end of the whip of justice must be as disappointing as it is earth-shattering. The simple fact that the referees of fairness, impartiality, and the rule of law are anything but equanimous leaves Ghanaians with the ultimate unanswered question: How many people have been wrongfully convicted by these dishonest people wearing a wig and a robe five days a week and presiding over matters of life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice? While you, dear reader, are thinking about the aforementioned question, I would like to share with you a beautiful passage of Scripture that underpins the choice of this article’s title.
In Luke 24:13-18 (KJV), we read: “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
The crux of this story is the combined effect of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead. In fact, Cleopas was taken aback by the ostensibly uninformed man who had joined the two friends walking down to Emmaus. Jesus’ crucifixion was such front-page news, only a visitor from a place far away could not have heard about it. Juxtaposing this biblical story against Anas’ investigative work reveals some incongruities: in the former, the two locals were surprised that the guest in their midst had not heard about the biggest news item of the season; in the latter, the shock comes from the shock expressed by Ghanaians at the judges’ devious acts! Indubitably, some judges in Ghana are more corrupt than the criminals they send away to prison on a regular basis, and this is a fact known to the majority of the Ghanaian people. So, unless you are new in Jerusalem, Anas’ story should not rattle your sensibilities!
And there is a corollary: Ask any new government appointee how long it took him to get to post and he will tell you a tale about the litany of shameless schemes perpetrated against him by government extortionists (oops, government employees), and how he had to “grease every palm” that handled his legitimate paperwork. Such is our history, our collective narrative, our shameless disposition. In Ghana, very little gets done unless somebody gets a brown envelope, and state-appointed judges, sadly, are no exception! It is such an embarrassing thing to discuss in the open, but how long will Ghanaians go down this dirty and reprehensible path?
A primary allure of the legal profession is its promise of stateliness. Judges are placed on a pedestal—literally and metaphorically—by the people over whom they preside. There is good reason why judges’ seats are elevated above those of their courtroom audiences. These elevated seats signify the power of the state that is vested in the arbiter whose legal training gives him or her the power to take away the liberty of a fellow citizen, impose a hefty fine for graft or other ignoble behavior, award custody of a minor to one parent against the wishes of the other, rule against politicians in closely contested elections, and carry out a compendium of other important assignments that pit one person against another, or one group against another. A judge has so much power vested in him or her that it defies common sense to know that these wig- and robe-adorning state characters can have any flaws in their character or decision-making!
The white wig worn by Ghana’s judges is, undoubtedly, a vestigial accoutrement of colonialism. In fact, the color of the wig is no accident; it epitomizes knowledge and sagacity, noble qualities that the profession’s practitioners are expected to possess. The sad truth, however, is that some judges are anything but wise, honest, and unbending in their interpretation of law and jurisprudence.
Now, I will attempt to answer the question I asked earlier in this article. Although many Ghanaians have focused their attention on these discredited judges and whether or not they ought to be publicly identified and prosecuted, what Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood needs to do immediately is reopen and re-examine all the cases that these underhanded judges had presided over in the past, and to exculpate and free from prison all those who had been sent there through false representations of material facts. Several qualified lawyers in the private sector can also petition the courts to have cases reopened to help identify and free those who had been falsely fined or whose liberty had been taken away by the state under false pretenses.
One of God’s greatest and most sacrosanct gifts to man is liberty, which is why taking a man’s liberty cannot be done in a callous manner. Indeed, any re-opened cases that reveal underhandedness should force the hand of Georgina Wood to do the following: exonerate and free the innocent, and extend reparation to those falsely imprisoned and whose reputations had suffered irreparable damage.
© Daniel K. Pryce, Ph.D., is a criminologist by profession. He can be reached at [email protected]. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com. “Good Governance in Ghana” is a group that emphasizes the preservation of democracy, justice, equity, and law and order in Ghana; its 395-plus members are all permitted to start discussions that promote the national interest.
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