Intro: - My name is Kwasi Agyeman Busia
Members of the media, invited guests we are grateful to see you all here covering this event. I consider it a great honour and a privilege to be addressing this press conference. I come to this press event today first as a citizen of this country and secondly as one deeply interested in our democratic growth as a people.
The very fact that I have an opportunity to be addressing the media today, unknown to national politics but nonetheless a concerned citizen should speak volumes for our democratic growth. I, not unlike others have spent the last several years observing and contributing in varied ways from afar the course and growth of our democracy.
In the last few months I have had the opportunity to be here at home in Ghana to participate in the 2012 elections and now like many of you a concerned citizen keenly interested in the unfolding story of what really transpired in the 2012 elections. With all the focus on the Supreme Court and the discussions and debates (not to mention the spin machines at optimal speed), it is not uncommon to lose sight of the commendable work done in the area of ensuring peace and protecting our democracy by some of the key players in this test of our electoral process and to a great extent the ‘fibre’ test of our constitution.
I’m in full agreement with a statement that says a time comes ‘when silence is betrayal…’ For me that time has come in relation to the issue of electoral irregularities (as a backdrop in the 2012 presidential elections) and my knowledge of Nana Akufo- Addo‘s record on peaceful and democratic means in resolving conflict and his unalloyed penchant for justice
Nana Addo’s disposition towards peace has culminated in his unflinching determination to use a constitutionally defined path to resolve the crises of the 2012 presidential elections.
So today I speak to you from the burnings of my own heart about Nana’s record and life work for civil rights, justice respect for the rule of law, non-violence, peace and the promotion of democracy.
The mission to which the test of our electoral process is summoned is a most important one for it is the basic requirement for a true democracy. However, the human spirit does move with difficulty when it has to question the validity of an election declaration from an institution, which otherwise should be deemed to be unbiased and neutral. Moreover, when the issue at hand defeats the very basic tenet of our democracy and casts a long shadow of what could have been and what is, we are always susceptible to be challenge by uncertainty but we must speak. We must speak with all the conviction and humility that is appropriate to the moment.
That is our democratic right. We must also rejoice because as a nation, when, not if, but when we pass this test, this court case and all parties accept the verdict then we would have reached a remarkable milestone in our democratic dispensation.
I would like to mention that the incredible show of tolerance and inclination towards peace exhibited by Nana Akufo-Addo in the wake of the disputed 2012 presidential elections is deeply rooted in the tradition of his party in its practice of true democracy as demonstrated by other leaders before him such as Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, Chief Simon Diedong Dombo and others.
As an example, when the majority of voices in Africa were calling for the use of military force in tackling the apartheid problem in South Africa, Dr. Busia had a lone voice, which proposed dialogue as a key instrument for resolving the problem. You would recall that he was viciously condemned for that position but as history teaches us his stance for peace was eventually vindicated.
Similarly, in a sharp departure from the traditional axiom, “If you wish for peace prepare for war”, at his last address to the UN, Busia’s unflinching quest for peace came into a sharp focus when he said, “If you wish for peace renounce war”.
To the Kofi Abrefa Busias, Martin Luther Kings and Mahandus K. Ghandis of our time a mere flirtation with war or violence even as a defensive mechanism is too risky a proposition. Unquestionably, violence and democracy are antithetical concepts and democracy serves the cause of peace because it offers the possibility of justice and of progressive change without the use of force.
When members of the opposition were being persecuted and tortured in prison by those who had power without morality and authority without compassion or restraint, Dr. Busia stayed the course. He did not resort to violence but rather took offensive action on behalf of justice and peace. He even wrote to Colonel Acheampong a man he appointed who ousted him from government after the coup of 1972 and I quote:
"I have decided to write to you personally. The sole reason is my deep concern for Ghana, for those who are alive today, and for those who will come after”.
“… I am prepared to meet you here in London with any of your men you wish to bring along to discuss how best to put Ghana again on the right road to democracy, prosperity and progress…
The display of tolerance and preference for true democracy and peace, which Nana Addo has demonstrated in an effort to seek justice for the Ghanaian people and a positive thrust for democracy in the unfolding story of the 2012 presidential elections, is consistent with the disposition and history of Dr. K. A. Busia and the tradition of the party.
When confronted with the ever-mounting evidence of voting irregularity and inefficiencies, Nana Addo did not flirt with the option of violence as exemplified time and again by certain leaders here in Africa and the world at large. He remained resolute; he remained firm and determined to let the rule of law prevail. That commitment is abundantly clear in this unfolding Supreme Court case on election 2012.
I’m certain that Nana Addo is fully aware and believes that the ‘arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. He obviously also understands as other leaders in history have that ‘true peace is not merely the absence of obvious tension, it’s the presence of justice. To reinforce his preference for justice and fairness, a look at Nana Addo’s record in the light of making a choice for a peaceful resolution of the 2012 presidential elections and his overall efforts in the growth of our democracy is merited. Bear in mind the reality that oftentimes as we have witnessed time and again in africa the unbridled selfish choice of a single person could plunge a whole community or country into untold misery of war and violence. …In other words “one monkey can spoil the show for all the others…”
I want to be very clear on this… It is not unusual that facts are sometimes misrepresented, distorted or obscured by ones political detractors for political mileage and propaganda. We must strive to take a detached view of situations. Our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional and that all efforts should be to preserve truth and to bring honor and praise to our sons and daughters when it is due.
Nana Addo by his singular act of choosing peace and going to court diffused ever mounting post-election tensions in the country in the days following the EC declaration; he systematically counseled and advised his followers to channel energies and time to gathering evidence to challenge a stolen verdict in court as per the constitution. At the ‘Obra spot’ after the December 2012 elections he admonished his supporters and said this and I quote ‘We don’t want any trouble, we don’t want anything that will disturb the peace of this country. Ghanaians are watching and I’m appealing to you, if indeed we are going to gain their support and respect, we have to comport ourselves…we are a strong willed party, we are courageous but we are not destructive …’
Long before the debacle of these 2012 presidential elections, long before a petition was ever filed to the Supreme court, addressing the Volta regional house of chiefs on a campaign trail, Nana Addo said this ‘ I’m unequivocally committed to peace in our country. That is why in 2008 when I lost the presidential election by the smallest margin in our political history and indeed in the history of Africa, I accepted the verdict of the Electoral Commission without demanding a recount or inciting my supporters, and thereby avoiding the spilling of even a single drop of Ghanaian blood. My resolve remains the same today…’
Without his intervention, the streets of our country could be filled with anguish, and there could have been strife, mayhem and bloodshed in our cities, tension, and insecurity in our villages and those lucky to be alive and uninjured would have been attending funerals without end. The untold misery and the indelible gory images of strife and war would have been living with us for a long time and families torn apart could be refugees in neighboring countries.
The repercussions of such a grim occurrence would have been felt for generations to come. The real question all of us have to answer to ourselves is what would have happened IF the petitioners had not gone to court? The question that need be asked is not necessarily what would happen to Akufo-Addo’s quest for the presidency if he had not gone to court, the deeper question is what would happen to our democracy IF the petitioners had not gone to court?
In this unfolding conundrum of justice, fair play, respect for the rule law against injustice, deceit and disrespect for our democratic electoral laws, the exhibition of political maturity, wisdom and selflessness cannot be overemphasized and should be commended and emulated.
It is therefore a tortuous logic to describe one who has spent a lifetime in promoting peace and democracy and has consistently made a choice for peace and constitutional means for dispute resolution as NOT opposed to violence. Maybe we ought to spend more of our time in praising our leaders who have been at the forefront of peace and lifting them up as examples to emulate and spend less time in tearing them down due to their political affiliations.
I would emphasize that ‘All die bi die’ was a call for defense, a call to stand your ground and protect your rights. It is a call that says ‘I’m a citizen of this country and I have constitutional rights, don’t abuse my rights, brutalize or oppress me in your quest for power or to hold on to power… In the face of aggression I will defend that right even at the peril and cost of my very life’ as echoed in our national anthem.
Allow me to let the facts of history and Nana -Addo’s record for protecting and preserving peace and leading the course of justice and the promotion of true democracy speak for itself; I have outlined a number of areas where Nana Addo has clearly demonstrated his love for peace and the respect for the rule of law. I will hasten to say this is not by any means an exhaustive list: But let us as a nation begin to look at this man through the lens on justice and fairness.
Nana Addo has continuously used his law practice to champion the cause of human rights, rule of law, justice and the protection of individual freedoms recognizing the worth of the human personality and the need for peace. He is well known for providing free legal assistance to the poor and the less privileged. He has also undertaken many important constitutional cases, which protect the independence of the judiciary. Some of you may recall the landmark case in 1979 when Nana led a group of young lawyers including Tsatsu Tsikata in the successful defense of the late Chief justice Fred Apaloo thereby further ensuring the independence of the judiciary.
At age 33, Nana was at the forefront with the likes of Akwasi Afrifa, William Ofori Atta, Komla Gbedemah, Adu Boahen, Godfrey Agama, Sam okudzeto, Obed Asamoah, Johnny Hansen, Nii Amaah Armatefio and others to fight with courage and without weapons in a non violent ‘NO’ campaign against the UNIGOV referendum of 1978, a key component of events leading to the downfall of Acheampong’s military government and the eventual restoration of multi-party democracy.
In 1995, Nana led the famous ‘Kume Preko’ demonstrations of the Alliance for Change (AFC), a broad based political pressure group, which mobilized over a million people to protest the harsh economic and political conditions of the Rawlings era. These demonstrations brought to bear the reality of the time and helped create the free and relatively peaceful environment for the 2000 elections.
As Attorney General he led the effort in the repeal of the criminal libel law thereby ensuring freedom of expression and promoting the growth of a vibrant and critical media. As foreign minister during the Kufuor administration, Nana Addo led envoys for peace initiatives in Sierra Leone, Togo, Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau. Under his leadership Ghana occupied a non –permanent seat at the UN Security Council in 2006-007.
In all internal NPP party searches for a consensus and direction on diverse issues, Nana Addo has always professed peace, showed leadership in this area and sought peaceful and amicable resolution to conflicts. He even tapped most of his opponents in the presidential primary to work side by side with him to prosecute the general election in 2008.
In 2008 after the closest election ever in the history of Ghana, Nana Addo as an ‘incumbent’ candidate conceded defeat and moved forward to find ways of rebuilding his party- and now we are all witnesses of what he has done in this unfolding, unprecedented and historical march for a peaceful resolution of the 2012 elections!
In the final analysis the question that we, all of us, at certain critical points have to answer to ourselves and loved ones, is simply this ‘ What does this country Ghana demand of me?’ As a leader commanding mass support and power, Akufo-Addo has consistently responded to issues with dignity and respect for the rule of law, choosing peace over strife, choosing the courts and justice over mayhem and chaos, choosing truth over infringement and disregard for truth… By his record he has answered THAT fundamental question by simply living his public life in the prism of democratic principles of peace, protection of freedoms, respect of rule of law and justice. Let us not forget that Nana Addo remains one of the most incorruptible politicians in our time not unlike his uncle William Ofori-Atta
The example shown by the petitioners by pursuing justice in the courts to unravel the mystery surrounding the 2012 elections can mark a turning point in Africa as exemplified in Kenya. At the end of the day, the hope is African leaders will come to the realization that there is no justification in taking to arms in protest against election related disputes.
To the teeming supporters of the Osono family- Know that genuine victory is at hand and before it is won some of us may be labeled as idiots who can go to court, some may be labeled as rabble rousers, some may be called bad names and your homes may be burned down but I know the question on your mind is, “How long will justice be crucified? How long will truth be buried? How long? …We have the assurance of Dr. Busia, “The hour will soon strike….”
These are solemn and reflective days, these are historical days and these are days of reckoning. We shall overcome! Let us continue to keep our focus and energies on the issue- THE ISSUE IS alleged PERVASIVE ELECTORAL IRREGULARITY, THE ISSUE IS THE NEGATION OF THE PEOPELS RIGHTS, THE ISSUE IS A CALCULATED SHAKEDOWN OF OUR DEMOCRACY, and THE ISSUE IS INJUSTICE.
All of us must be deeply concerned about what is unfolding in the supreme court for it occurs to me that to be unconcerned is to abrogate what others have fought so hard to preserve, to be detached is to add cycnism to a process that requires your vigilance. Let us remind ourselves that our national motto reads ‘Freedom & Justice…’ Those eternal words of hope, fairness and equity have stood the test of time. This timeless democratic creed will continue to hold us together as a people during and after the Supreme Court declaration. They will remind us of past and present leaders who choose peace over personal ambition, who seek justice and the sanctity of freedom for all Ghanaians
We shall overcome because Carlisle is right ‘No lie can live forever,’ we shall overcome because the Bible is right-’You SHALL reap what you sow…!
The prayer is that this Party and this nation will awake from a gnawing sense of despair to a hopeful and bright future where all votes will count and you will be the participants of making it so.
In conclusion Let us search ourselves and be honest with the reality of the situation regardless of the political jersey we wear, Let us live in the body and spirit of our national anthem “bold to defend forever the cause of freedom and of right…..as we ‘cherish fearless honesty…’ let us give credit where it is due…. For Nana Addo it has been 40 years of public service, 40 years of selfless choices, 40 years of country first, 40 years of protecting our democracy, 40 years of incorruptible public service and 40 years of a demonstration of a phrase he coined ‘I believe in Ghana let us praise a great son of our time…’ Mo mma yen mbo n’ aba so!
May God Bless our Republic. May he preserve our freedom and justice Thank you very much for being here …
Authors: Kwasi Agyeman Busia and Steve Amoah