GUNSMOKE & MIRRORS — Earl Ankrah cross-examines the hasty conviction and incarceration of an unstable man, who carried a gun close to the President and confessed his intent to take his life.

The summary sentence of Charles Antwi as witnessed in awe by the nation these past few days is the nation’s loss; not his. It’s been viewed through polarized political prisms, thereby impairing our vision into what should have been a home-run moment for the country.

file photo of Earl Ankrah (author of this article)

At least our constitution suggests everyone gets his day in court, no matter whom or what the crime is…even if it was an attempt to topple the whole sitting government. Yes, Charles was in court, but I guess the horse has been adequately flocked as to whether he was availed the whole apparatus of having his ‘day in court’. As irrational as it may sound, as a citizen of this noble land, the state should have provided him with not just a lawyer, but a very good one at that, especially to grant our citizenry a practical civic education on what the proverbial Ghanaian democracy really entails; and to flaunt to the civilized world, the sheer flair and flamboyance of our touted democracy.

The brisk whisk to the BNI and then to court (sans avocat) and thence to jail, all seems Guantanamo; which explains the torrent of tongue-lashing at the court, albeit warped in political rhetoric – unfortunately. I don’t think even the president appreciates the court’s move. Like all politicians, I’m sure he’d have loved to bask in a glow of magnanimity opportuned by a more meticulous and judicious handling of the episode. Instead, the court and indeed the security apparatus, clumsily ‘humpty-dumptied’ a ‘high-horse’ opportunity, not just for the president but for the nation.

Also: click here for more pieces by Earl Ankrah

Yes, Charles ‘confessed’ or ‘pleaded guilty’. But even so, doesn’t he require legal counsel to guide him towards that decision? Let’s even choose to err on the side of caution and accept that, summarily incarcerating a mentally unstable citizen doesn’t constitute a breach of our laws. Even then, in the name of natural justice, what kind of civilized (or sane) society in this 21st century crashes a mentally unstable person through trial…without legal counsel and then jails him beyond the legally prescribed term? That wouldn’t sit right even in a backstreet shoestring budget movie!

Fortunately, the pulse of our democracy throbs on, as efforts are being pursued to resuscitate justice for Antwi at the human rights court. And given the loopholes identified by legal and medical minds, one can only predict that Charles Antwi stands to walk, if his rights as a Ghanaian were indeed violated.

In a lil game of assumptions, let’s first assume he’s mentally stable. Even then, the case still seems riddled with errors and muddled in possible prosecutorial misconduct: Was he read his rights? If not, he walks. He could also claim he was coerced to ‘confess’ that his action was premeditated.. Again, he walks at once! And let’s just assume he’s mentally unstable..He walks still…to a psychiatric facility.

Let’s even broaden the scope of this discussion and attempt to diagnose this case from other lenses: security, instead of sanity or the lack of it. Let’s assume the suspect was sane, but possessed a license to bear arms. Do our laws forbid the bearing of arms in a church, marketplace or a mall? Is he forbidden from bearing arms at a public place? What if he says he’s once been threatened by armed robbers?

Unless there’s more to it than meets our understanding, the haste and clumsiness lend themselves to all sorts of theatrical suspicions. If indeed he’s deemed a security threat, any expert would tell you the smarter move could have been, first, some dramatized legal skirmishes, following which he could have been granted bail to get him to be tracked 24/7 for his accomplices to be smoked out.

Beyond that, come to think of it, the whole cacophony about ‘gun in a church’…three benches from the president, is much a-fuss ’bout nothing… [wait, lemme finish] …considering the stark fact that our presidents are always out and about in public. A church, at least, has a gate and a narrow entrance, which makes pat-downs and metal detectors conveniently deployable. But how about durbar grounds, where ‘party faithfuls’ are pressing in, in wanton pussy-footing proximity? That’s open-hunting season, almost on a weekly basis for several Charles Antwis out there! Maybe our goggle-donning capos should be gauging further afield…

…Whilst the rest of us gauge further beyond Charles and into the delusional mindsets of ‘decaf’ versions of Charles, who were biting and flapping their fore-fingers, in regret of the unsuccessful attempt on the president’s life. Here’s a lil heads-up to them…

If [touch-wood], the President drops down now, his vice would be declared President before sunset. And that we know holds until euphoric electioneering kicks in, by which time whatever they hold against the president would have been buried with him, along with blistering critiques of his policies, which could have constituted potent campaign messages against him. So, love him or hate him, maybe you’re better off with him alive.

I have even chanced on social media, cravings for a coup d’état. So here’s the scenario: Say a coup is successful; a new regime [which abhors this president] takes over.. Expats would flee our shores; development partners would recoil.. [as if they’ve not recoiled enough already]; energy situation gets out of hand; queues for fuel; light @ the end of the dumsor tunnel dims; deeper, longer, hotter darkness; summary executions; uncertain future; price hikes; curfews; airport shut downs; road blocks; hovering aircrafts…

Then after some months, pressure from world bodies mounts to return to democracy…or easier still, military intervention led by France [Gbagbo style] or US; a few hundreds of Ghanaians die…And then back to elections, hopefully by December 2016…which could go either way. Then the ‘nation building’ and ‘nation healing’ process starts all over again! Insane, ain’t it? So love him or hate him… [Fill in the gap] 

Same goes for Charles Antwi, stable or unstable; even if his mission had any “method in ’t”, our body politic is better off with him out of jail, [following a diligent pursuit of the justice our system is supposed to offer each of us], than with him in it.

Walking about with the thought that a judge can jail me arbitrarily, is as spine-chilling to me as living in a coup-ran state. In fact, I dare say, #jesuischarlie.

Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s the best option so far, the world over. In fact, come to think of it, democracy isn’t supposed to be perfect. It is like a palm tree, swamped in a labyrinth of cultures, civilizations, religions, trades…decked with all sorts of nonsense and common sense, which crab down each other interchangeably.

It’s got all the characteristics of a living thing… It feeds and excretes, respires and expires, procreates… it grows, moves…name ’em.

Our judicial arm might have scored an ‘F’ and momentarily lost an opportunity to wow the world. But in case the motion to quash fails, the president still holds one ace card at the edge of his table, waiting to flip it across, after all bluff calls are done. We could still re-write a Nov-Dec version of this test; and Graphic front page shall read: “Charles Antwi Gets Presidential Pardon”… and gets checked into a psychiatric facility.

Until then, can all sides just shush on the political bickering and focus on The Motherland? Therein lies our ‘reflection’…


This article was first published in the Daily Graphic (Ghana’s leading newspaper) on 24.08.2015.

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