The ‘Ama Governor’ issue: The law is an ass, indeed.
The law is an ass. This is one of the most graphic expressions that stuck in my young, fresh and then-unadulterated mind when I heard it for the first time. I had then enrolled as a law student at the University of Ghana, Legon, exactly 30 years ago. I wondered why anyone will refer to the ‘law’ as an ass


 

A: Introduction

The law is an ass. This is one of the most graphic expressions that stuck in my young, fresh and then-unadulterated mind when I heard it for the first time. I had then enrolled as a law student at the University of Ghana, Legon, exactly 30 years ago. I wondered why anyone will refer to the ‘law’ as an ass. I considered that to be an insult on the same scale as a first degree felony.[1] But with time, it became clear to me that, the expression, ‘the law is an ass,’ is no empty epithet. The law doesn’t always wear its garb of being fair, just and applied evenly. But then again, the law does not work by itself. It works through officers. So, if the law is an ass, what then are its officers?

These are the issues that I discuss in this article in the light of the news that the General Legal Council (GLC) has suspended a law student’s call to the Bar because of a complaint filed by a ‘concerned citizen.’ The law student’s ‘crime’, according to the so-called complaint, is that, her activities and conduct on the internet do not make her a person of ‘good character’ fit to be called to the Bar as a lawyer. This article analyzes the moral code that the law and its officers themselves must exhibit to grant them the moral authority to sit in judgment over students. Most importantly, the article notes that the process adopted by the GLC in suspending the law student’s call to the Bar without giving her any opportunity to defend herself is illegal and cannot stand up to scrutiny in any court of law in a constitutional democracy. The article concludes that, those who took the unlawful decision to deprive the young student of her call to the Bar must retract and admit her to the Bar without delay.

 

B: The ‘Ama Governor’ issue: Background

A few days ago, the news portals were awash with the news that a law student, who goes by the pseudo-name ‘Ama Governor,’ has been suspended from being called to the Bar. By the reportage, the young lady had passed all her exams and other requirements, including the ill-conceived ‘exit interview.’ Probably, she had also ‘eaten all her dinners’ in line with antiquated British aristocratic pre-lawyerly principles.[2] Ama Governor’s suspension was said to have been ignited by a complaint from a ‘concerned citizen.’ ‘Concerned citizen’ had reportedly prayed the GLC not to admit Ama Governor as a lawyer for ‘lack of good character’ because of the pictures and videos she has posted on the internet about herself, extolling her sexual orientation and preferences, among other abominations.

By a letter dated 7th November, 2022, the GLC informed Ama Governor, first, about the complaint that had been made against her by the ‘concerned citizen.’ The letter mentioned no name as complainant. It simply said a ‘concerned citizen’ had lodged a complaint against her. The date of the complaint was not stated. Secondly, the letter informed Ama Governor that her call to the Bar on 11th November, 2022 had been suspended based on the complaint. Thirdly, a 3-member committee will be set up to investigate the allegations. No date was fixed for the investigations. So, Ama Governor can wait till God’s kingdom comes, if ever it will in her lifetime. Most notably, the letter did not forward a copy of the complaint to Ama Governor for her response. It was, therefore, obvious that Ama Governor had been condemned to suspension without having been given any opportunity to see the alleged complaint, to give her response to it and, most crucially, to confront the so-called ‘concerned citizen’ complainant.

 

C: The GLC must first mount the moral high horse

It is refreshing to note that the General Legal Council is taking the ‘good character’ factor seriously, albeit in an unpardonably unlawful manner as will be demonstrated presently. The ‘good character’ issue is a purely moral issue and we applaud the GLC’s bravery for making incursions into that domain. It is equally refreshing to state that, the GLC and its members, as well as the members of its committees and panels are, and must be, the first candidates to pass the morality test. When they do, then they will have the moral right and duty to subject others to the same test. When it comes to morality, the parameters can be so fluid that, persons whose shadows should not even be seen near quarters where such issues are discussed, rather take centre stage and fan the flames, in the hope that their own deeds may be buried thereby.

The test for morality: To formulate a test for morality for the paragons of ‘good character’ and moral uprightness, we do not need to look too far. I wish to quote, with utmost approval, what could appropriately be referred to as the ‘test of morality’ propounded by the late former Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, The Hon. Mr. Justice K. E. Amua-Sekyi[3] of most blessed memory. Justice Amua-Sekyi was one of those judges who, in their lifetime, one could beat their chest and say, “this is an upright man.” So, when he spoke, he spoke. And people listened. He lived what he preached. Now, at the Ghana Bar Association’s Annual Conference held in Kumasi on 2nd October, 1995, under the theme, “The Role of the Judiciary in Sustaining Democratic and Constitutional Rule,” Justice Amua-Sekyi was the guest speaker. He gave a most profound speech which could be labeled as the morality test for lawyers and judges. I can do no better than to quote His Lordship in his own words:

“A Judge … must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife; of a temperate nature, exercising self-control at all times, respectful and kind but firm in matters of principle; not given to excessive drinking; not of violent or quarrelsome disposition, and above all, not greedy for money…

A Judge who fails to measure up to this high standard is as lightly regarded as the Judaic teacher of the law who was derisively referred to as a ‘white sepulcher.’ In a democratic constitutional set up, each and every one of those attributes of character are expected of a judge but principally, those we demand most from him are independence, integrity and fairness.”

Continuing his speech, His Lordship, who was described by the Ghana Bar Association as a “moralist judge” in the Association’s well-written and fantastic tribute to celebrate him,[4] stated thus:

"A judge who takes bribes is morally unfit to sit in judgment over his fellow men; neither the thief nor the highway man has any lessons of proper behavior to learn from him. It is an evil thing to deny the widow her portion, deprive an orphan of his patrimony or cheat the poor of that which rightly belongs to them. When justice is turned into a commodity sold in the stalls and purchased by the dozens, the vision becomes blinded, the ears are stopped and such acts are connived at or condemned."

It is in the light of the above ‘moral code’, as it were, formulated by a human being who was one of us (and not by any distant, saintly, religious figure we only read about in scriptures) that those who wield the moral rod must themselves be judged. According to the ‘test of morality,’ those who have been divorced on grounds of adultery will fail the test. Those who take bribes will fail the test. Those who have been adjudged by courts of competent jurisdiction to have duped their clients will fail the test. Those who are having children out of wedlock with their paramours and ‘side chicks’ will fail the test. Those who have no children with their wives of several decades but have biological children elsewhere will fail the test. Those whose knowledge of the law is porous will fail the test. Those who lack integrity will fail the test. Those who commit illegalities will fail the test. Those who are accused of sexually harassing or raping female law students and female lawyers will fail the test. The list goes on and on and on.

 

D: Equality is equity

The most disconcerting aspect of the Ama Governor issue is how she has been denied the opportunity to be called to the Bar based on a mere allegation by a so-called ‘concerned citizen.” Not long ago, the news portals were bursting with news about the Chief Justice’s US$5 million bribery allegation. The allegation came from a lawyer who also alleges it came from his client.[5] A 3-member panel of the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC is reportedly holding an inquiry into the allegation. The question is: why is the Chief Justice not on suspension? After all, the allegation of bribery made against him was by named human beings and not a cowardly, faceless, ‘concerned citizen’ of no known address and of doubtful human existence. Be that as it may, the Chief Justice is still at post whiles the complaint is pending before the Committee. In the best tradition of the law, that is how it is supposed to be because, he cannot be deemed ‘guilty’ before the panel concludes its work.

            By the same token, Ama Governor should not have been suspended when a panel has not even been put together, much less, hear her side of the story. She must also be given the opportunity to confront her accuser before any decision can be taken to affect her future as a lawyer. Between the allegation of a young feisty woman having ‘fun’ on social media and a sitting Chief Justice allegedly seeking (and allegedly receiving part) of a US$5 million bribe in a case pending before the Supreme Court,[6] who is a better candidate for suspension before a hearing? As an advocate, I say none of them. Sauce that is good for the goose must definitely be good for the gander.

 

D: Our collective national hypocrisy

Ghana is a most religious country. We can easily be counted among the first 5 most religious countries in the world. The sight of our citizens in their best frock, moving swiftly with their kids in tow, either to church or mosque on a Sunday or Friday, can melt the heart of the most- hardened heathen. We make our supplications to the Almighty in prayer and sit and wait patiently for answers. We pray for everything. We pray for rain to fall. We pray for a weak ‘cedi’ to rise in the mighty name of Jah Jehovah El-Shaddai. We pray for ‘galamsey’ to stop. We fast and pray for the economy to improve. We pray for… kindly fill in the blank space.

            Moving in tandem with our religiosity is our enviable ranking on the ‘World Pornography & Betting Competition.’ According to the Director-General of the Cyber Security Authority, Albert Antwi-Boasiako, pornography and betting are among the top 5 most visited websites in Ghana. He added: “Our citizens are quite active on social media, and statistics show that we are ranked the third country with active social media presence behind Nigeria and The Philippines in the whole world. … You may be surprised, access to betting sites is one of them, also it is not very nice to say but even pornographic access is one of them.”[7] This information was widely published but no one made a whimper. Not priests and pastors, not Imams and mallams, not chiefs and queens, not lawyers and law makers, not judges and the judged, not teachers and traders, not anybody and somebody. We played deaf to the unpalatable but true news.

            Since we are all so righteous, who are the ‘ghosts’ who have been watching porn and betting online on our account to propel our unenviable position on the porn and betting league? Ourselves, our spouses, our children, our parents and grandparents, our siblings? We have not spared a moment to audit ourselves and those around us but we are all ready to jump hypocritically and devour the person whose face shows up.  The Cyber Security Authority’s statistics is very worrying. There are countries whose populations run into billions and hundreds of millions. Those countries have been able regulate their internet use. How come all the countries who matter economically and politically in the world are not scoring high on internet access and Ghana is performing wonders there? We have opened our cyberspace like a sluice and we allow all manner of foreign contents to enter our homes and our children’s lives.

Let’s ask ourselves: has every country in the world welcomed Facebook, Google, TikTok, WhatsApp, etc. into jurisdiction? Twitter’s announcement to set up shop in Ghana, for example, received a presidentially-tweeted thumbs up. After assembling a motley collection of our youth as its ‘employees,’ in Accra, Twitter laid them off before the ink on their acceptance letters dried up. The reason was simple: The Company has a new owner! In Ghana, we answer ‘yes’ to the unbridled entry of these ‘time bombs’ freely and with little or no regulation. If we liberally invite these ‘tools of exploitation’ into our country, we must be prepared for the consequences. This is what breeds, and will continue to breed, the Ama Governors of our time. And when we fail to deal with the problem, it will catch up with us. When the time comes, breaking the law to fix it will not work.     

 

E: Breaking the law in the name of enforcing the law

Perhaps, the most damning and unlawful aspect of the letter issued to Ama Governor is the fact that, she was being informed that her call to the Bar had been suspended without giving her a hearing. From the contents of the letter, the GLC had received a complaint from a so-called ‘concerned citizen,’ urging the GLC not to admit Ama Governor to the Bar. The GLC met on 2nd November, 2022 and decided to set up a 3-member panel to consider the complaint and took a decision to suspend Ama Governor’s call to the Bar that same day. Therefore, the first time Ama Governor heard about the complaint and the decision was when she was handed the GLC’s letter dated 7th November, 2022 announcing her suspension. The call to the Bar had been slated to take place on 11th November, 2022. That left the young student no opportunity to seek judicial review by way of certiorari to quash such an unlawful decision by the GLC. Many are wondering whether the Ama Governor issue was not what informed the GLC’s decision to postpone the call to the Bar from the statutory first Friday of October to 11th November, 2022.

            It is submitted that, the GLC’s decision to suspend Ama Governor’s call to the Bar based on an alleged complaint, without giving her any chance to be heard in her defence, is unlawful. The GLC breached the ‘audi alteram partem’ rule with relish and the decision has no limbs on which it can stand. The position of the law is that, no person must be condemned to suffer a penalty under the law without being given an opportunity to be heard in their defence. In Ama Governor’s case, she has been presumed guilty and condemned to suspension without being heard. A more fitting case of travesty of justice cannot be imagined.

It is further submitted that, the GLC took the decision to prevent Ama Governor from being enrolled at the Bar without any regard for the law and the regulations that guide the call of law students to the Bar in Ghana.[8] The suspension, therefore, smacks of vendetta and vindictiveness. 

At any rate, the Constitution requires that, administrative bodies and administrative officials (such as the GLC and its members) must act fairly and reasonably and follow the procedures set out in the law under which they operate.[9] The Constitution also states that, any institution that exercises discretionary power must be fair and candid. The power must not be used in a manner that is arbitrary, capricious or biased, whether by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike. The discretionary power must also be used in a manner that is in accord with the due process of law. And where, as in the GLC’s case, the authority exercising the discretionary power is an inferior adjudicating body and not a court, it must act according to its regulations.[10]

 

F: Advice to Ama Governor

Ms. Governor, by now, it is clear to you that, life in cyber space is separate and distinct from the real life of flesh and blood and bones on Mother Earth. Much as there may not be rules guiding online activities in cyber space, there are rules for earthly activities. Therefore, if you choose to live a duality of life, – on earth and in cyber space – kindly ensure that you will do so within the confines of what is permissible in both worlds. I am sure all the 700 or so colleagues of yours who are graduating today have an online presence and use social media. But the nameless, faceless, telephone numberless, addressless, so-called ‘concerned citizen’ chose to pick you and serve you to wolves.

Definitely, you should not lose your personality to suit any gaping hypocrites. But step back, recalibrate and live your life to the fullest. The law is on your side. This too shall pass. Congratulations for passing the Bar exams the pious lot flunk with ease. You will make one hell of a fine, brilliant lawyer.

 

G: Conclusion

It is most unfortunate that the GLC failed to call a law student, one ‘Ama Governor, ’ to the Bar today for the reason that a ‘concerned citizen’ has filed a complaint against her, calling her ‘good character’ into question as a result of her activities online. Ama Governor has been suspended without being given any opportunity to defend herself. The decision offends against all notions of fair trial and administrative justice. The best the GLC can do to save its face is to advise the young student appropriately, caution her if necessary, reverse the unlawful suspension without delay. The must then organize a call for her as soon as possible.

In any event, when it comes to such issues bordering on morality, it is expected that those who sit in judgment over moral issues must themselves pass the moral test. As the late Justice Amua-Sekyi once said, a judge who fails to measure up to the high standards of independence, integrity and fairness is not worth his or her role to judge others. He or she is like a ‘white sepulcher.’

Ama Governor’s issue serves as a lesson for us as a country to regulate what we accept into our jurisdiction by way of contents online. People are spending productive man-hours browsing the internet,[11] pushing up our unenviable ranking on the world’s porn and betting league in the process. We must regulate access to the internet, as most developed and developing countries have done. If we expose our youth to anything and everything online, we are creating more Ama Governors who will feel that, they can show up as they please online, irrespective of their life’s aspirations and career choices. Many more will become addicted to the internet and rot away in the privacy of their homes. The time to act is now.

 



[1] An offence that can be punished by putting the offender in prison for life.

[2] For more insights on Bar dinners and its British origins, see: “Barristers' dinners – a bit of fun or one upper-class indulgence too many? https://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/may/12/barristers-dinners-fun-indulgence

 

 

[3] Justice Amua-Sekyi was born on 5 July 1933 in Sekondi. He read law at the Middle Temple. He was called to the English Bar in 1965, that same year, he was also called to the Ghana Bar upon his return to Ghana. Amua-Sekyi begun private legal practice in 1965. In 1968, he established his law firm, Ekuadaa Chambers in Takoradi and he remained in private legal practice for 12 until his appointment as justice of the High Court in 1977.[ Nine years later, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal. A year later he was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana Most significantly, he was a chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council. He also chaired the Legal Aid Committee, the Council for Law reporting. In October. 2002, following the establishment of the National Reconciliation Commission, he was appointed Chairman of the commission that remained from 2002 until his task was completed in 2004. Justice Amua-Sekyi married Mrs. Georgina Amua-Sekyi (née Hackman) (formerly a tutor at Wesley Girls' High School in Cape Coast) in 1967. Together, they had three children. He died on 17th May, 2007 at the age of 73. For more information, see: Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kweku_Etrew_Amua-Sekyi

 

[4] See: The beautifully-written and detailed tribute of the Ghana Bar Association for the late Mr. Justice Amua-Sekyi at his funeral in Sekondi in 2007. Lawyers, judges and people from all walks of life travelled to Sekondi to pay their last respect to the great man of the law. The author was in full attendance, too. This is what the Ghana Bar Association said of Justice Amua-Sekyi: “Mr. Justice Kweku Etrew Amua-Sekyi was a gentleman and a scholar of unassuming character … We of the GBA will forever cherish your memory. We will at all times remember men and women like you with fondness. We will always judge the work and conduct of others by the yard stick set by such as you who made the law a lamp unto our feet even in times of encircling darkness.You were a moralist, crusader against corruption on the Bench, a man who would not be enticed by worldly trappings. A man with an independent mind and thought, unwavering in his conviction, to lead an upright life.”

 

 

 

 

[5] https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/US-5-million-bribery-allegation-against-Chief-Justice-What-we-know-so-far-1340611

 

[6] Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI v Ghana Telecommunications Co. Ltd Civil Motion No. J8/131/2019, S

[7] Source: “Porn and betting websites among top five most visited in Ghana, says CSA boss” https://asaaseradio.com/porn-and-betting-websites-among-top-five-most-visited-in-ghana-says-csa-boss/

 

[8] The Legal Profession (Professional & Post-Law Course) Regulations, 2018 (L.I 2355)

[9] See: Article 23 of the 1992 Constitution.

[10] See: Article 296 of the 1992 Constitution.

[11] Source: “CSA says Ghanaian internet users spend five hours daily on mobile phones,” https://newsghana.com.gh/csa-says-ghanaian-internet-users-spend-five-hours-daily-on-mobile-phones/

 

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