To many ordinary minds, the presidential candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama on Wednesday, December 30, 2020, merely filed a suit at the Supreme Court challenging the outcome of the 2020 polls, but to the initiated, that suit might seal the destiny of a highly respected jurist in the country.
The suit will determine whether, Justice Jones Victor Mawulorm Dotse, remains on the Supreme Court bench or becomes the next Speaker of Parliament and presides over the swearing-in of President Nana Akufo-Addo on January 7, 2021.
If he is to sit on the election petition as one of the experienced judges, then he cannot be the Speaker of the next Parliament, since he and other judges, would have 42 days to settle the case, and it looks certain that the experience and competence of the man who coined the politically insinuated phrase “create, loot and share” in the Alfred Woyome case to damn the John Atta-Mills administration as corrupt, will most likely be empanelled by Chief Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah.
If this is to happen, he cannot be available for January 6, 2021, nomination and balloting as Speaker of Parliament, which was dangled in front of him as a political reward; a way back into the rough-and-tumble of Ghanaian politics after life on the bench.
But already, media reports are that the speakership of the 8th parliament is hotly being sought after by the incumbent, Prof. Mike Oquaye; the National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Freddie Blay; former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Nii Ayikoi Otoo and the Private Legal Practitioner, Frank Davies.
Coincidently, Frank Davis, who is also the Board Chairman of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) had been mentioned by the NPP’s Campaign Manager for the 2020 election, Peter Mac Manu, as one of the lawyers studying the petition filed by ex-President Mahama, on behalf of the NPP.
Justice Dotse, who is currently President Nana Akufo-Addo’s nominee on the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) at Ho in the Volta Region, was twice by-passed by the President when the position of Chief Justice became vacant, with many legal experts, describing him as the best man for the job, because he is well-mannered compared to Justice Anin Yeboah, who even takes his NPP politics to the classroom and many times being in a rage with his students for disagreeing with his anti-Nkrumah and anti-Rawlings sentiments.
The first occasion of his rejection, was when Justice Georgina Wood retired as Chief Justice, although Justice Dotse, had been the de facto deputy to a lady regarded as a true definition of the “hierarchy of the courts”.
She had joined the bench at the Circuit Court as a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and rose to the High Court, Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court and got nominated as the first female Chief Justice by ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor.
President Akufo-Addo, had opted for Justice Sophia Akuffo, who in fact had received part of her legal training in the law firm of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co. partly owned by the politician.
Indeed, the two together with Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akufo-Addo, are reported to be paternal cousins from Akropong-Akuapim in the Eastern Region.
On the departure of Justice Sophia Akuffo, currently the chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the COVID-19 National Trust Fund set up by the President, there was a fierce jostling for the Chief Justice position and again, the Kpando-born Justice Dotse looked more promising to get the job, however, Justice Anin Yeboah from Nkawie in the Ashanti Region – same town as ex-President John Agyekuma Kufuor, who sent him to the Supreme court – was more preferred.
Reports later emerged that the President’s inner circle got ethnocentric and couldn’t trust Justice Dotse.
It further emerged that, the Ashanti Region bloc within the NPP, had become disgruntled due to the many government positions given to President Akufo-Addo’s direct family members, as well as his close friends, mainly from the Eastern Region, therefore, offering the Chief Justice job to Anin-Yeboah, will be an appeasement of the Ashanti bloc in the NPP, which had been the fulcrum around which the governing party spins.
After the announcement, additional report emerged that President Akufo-Addo, had called Justice Dotse and told him to be ready to become the next Speaker of Parliament in the second term of an Akufo-Addo administration.
Justice Dotse, is currently seen in the Volta Region as the NPP’s “godfather” mainly settling disputes among feuding members and pushing for the appointments of party people from the region into government positions.
But that promise to be made a Speaker of the next Parliament per the views of many political watchers might just be frustrated by ex-President Mahama’s petition to the Supreme Court as Justice Dotse’s expertise will be needed.
Mr Mahama is contending that the results declared by the Electoral Commission in favour of President Akufo-Addo were “made arbitrarily, capriciously, and with bias.”
Mr Mahama also feels “that the said declaration was made without regard to due process of law” and must be declared as null and void.
The NDC presidential candidate, has not conceded in the just-ended polls because he believes President Akufo-Addo did not win the elections as announced by the EC.
He had said the election was flawed and the results declared fictionalized.
Interestingly, the NPP’s Campaign Manager for the 2020 election, Peter Mac Manu, has since said even President Mahama was wrongfully credited with some votes by the EC and the party’s lawyers led by Frank Davies are going to challenge those numbers with facts, figures and the law.
Justice Dotse, who was part of the nine Justices who in 2013 heard the election petition brought by then candidate Akufo-Addo, has since served as the Chairperson of the Election Manual Review Committee, which guides election adjudication and ensures that any petition arising from the presidential election result, would be resolved expeditiously within 42 days.
The Judicial Service led by Chief Justice on November 24, 2020, launched the fourth edition of the manual ahead of the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections. It provides a source for all requisite constitutional provisions on the conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections, including statutory and subsidiary legislations, as well as relevant and special procedural rule on the conduct of these elections.
The book also contains a collection of relevant cases decided by the Superior Court of Ghana on elections and other related matters. Interestingly, many have said that the content of the manual is largely the dissenting opinions in the 2013 election petition. Justice Anin Yeboah, is said to have written the minority’s view in the 6:4 decision of the nine-member panel ruling which dismissed Akufo-Addo, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and Obetsebi-Lamptey’s challenge of the 2012 of the presidential election on the basis of fraud.
The Supreme Court bench currently has Justice Anin Yeboah, Nii Ashie Kotey, Nene A. O. Amegatcher, Samuel K. Marful-Sau, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Yaw Appau, Gabriel Pwamang, Issifu Omoro Tanko Amadu, Clemence Jackson Honyenuga and Yonny Kulendi, who interestingly has also been a protégée of Nana Akufo-Addo, having received his training as a lawyer from the law firm of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co. just like Justice Sophia Akufo-Addo.
Other judges on the Supreme Court bench are, Justice Agnes M.A. Dordzie, Justice Mariama Owusu, Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo and Justice Prof. Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu.
How Justice Dotse, cannot be part of the impending case, will baffle many legal brains. But if he sits, that will mean he automatically had to forgo the Speaker of Parliament job, which was dangled in his face by President Akufo-Addo, to keep loyal for not giving him the Chief Justice slot which twice became vacant and was in a pole position for it, per his NPP political connections, which runs back to his days in Ho, Volta Region as a private legal practitioner.
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