He is perhaps the only “Sir” in Ghanaian politics and was celebrated widely by his supporters when he won the General Secretary position of Ghana’s largest opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), three years ago.
This time, he is in a different situation. He has been summoned by none other than the highest court of the land for allegedly making contemptuous comments against the court.
He was present in court when his nickname was first mentioned on July 8, 2013 as having been quoted by a private newspaper for allegedly scandalising the Supreme Court.
The matter was stood down on that day to enable the court to listen to the tape recording of Sir John’s alleged contemptuous statement and advise itself accordingly.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court, on August 9, 2013, issued summons directing Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie to appear before it today and demonstrate why he should not be imprisoned for contempt of court.
He is to face the nine-member panel, presided over by Mr Justice William Atuguba. Other members of the panel are Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Ms Justice Rose Constance Owusu, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Anin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo.
In the same boat with Sir John is a member of the NPP Communications Team, Mr Hopeson Adorye, who has also been summoned to appear before the same court to purge himself of contemptuous comments he allegedly made against the Bench.
The summons, jointly signed by Mr Justice Atuguba and the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr James Mensah, is asking the two to show why they “should not be committed to prison for contempt of this court, for scandalising the court, lowering the authority and credibility of this court in the eyes of the general public and exciting hatred and ill-will towards the first and second respondents herein”.
The first and second respondents in the presidential election petition are President John Dramani Mahama and the Electoral Commission (EC).
Sir John, a lawyer, is alleged to have accused the Bench of being biased, while Mr Adorye is alleged to have stated that the heads of members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) would be chopped off if President Mahama, whose presidency is under challenge, was declared winner of the presidential petition.
“Showdown” in Court
Followers of the ongoing presidential election petition will, today, see how Sir John and Mr Adorye will justify why they should not be put behind bars for contempt of court.
Although Sir John, in interviews with the media, had stated that he had not been served with the summons directing him to appear in court, there are indications that he is likely to be in court.
He has so far declined to comment on the contemptuous comments he is alleged to have made, but Mr Adorye has explained that he made the alleged contemptuous comments before the court issued its final ‘touchline’ warning on June 24, 2013.
According to Mr Adorye, when he made those comments he was reacting to threats that there would be civil war in Ghana if Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was declared President on the face of pink sheets (statement of poll and declaration of results forms for the office of President).
The Final Touchline
After several pieces of caution to the public, the Supreme Court, on June 24, 2013, issued a final warning (touchline) to lawyers, journalists, political activists and social commentators against making prejudicial comments on the ongoing presidential election petition.
When it realised that the warning was not being heeded to, the court, on June 26, 2013, banned a Deputy Communications Director of the NPP, Mr Sammy Awuku, from attending the election petition hearing until the final determination.
Before his banishment, Mr Awuku had apologised for accusing the court of being selective and hypocritical for expressing displeasure over a Daily Guide news report.
The “Silenced” Three
The Editor of the Daily Searchlight, Mr Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie, and a member of the NDC Communications Team, Stephen Atubiga, were, on July 2, 2013, sentenced to 10 days’ and three days’ imprisonment respectively, for falling foul of the court’s orders.
They have both completed their jail terms.