Major Maxwell Mahama has been laid to rest. I join the many Ghanaians home and abroad in commiserating with his wife and children; father and mother. And now the seagull has returned to Bird Island, it is time for us to pause a moment and take stock. Take stock of why the incidence of mob justice or mob injustice as others like Samson Lardy Anyenini would prefer to call it, is on the rise.
One of my favourite topics in mathematics in high school was logical reasoning. In this, two preconditions or premises A and B were given and, a general statement followed. It was for the student to deduce whether given the two statements the conclusion that followed was true or false (not factual or fictitious). For example;
A: All boys are tall
B: Atinga is a boy.
Conclusion: Atinga is tall. Reason: Because Atinga is a boy. This statement is true but may not be factual.
Having established my point of departure, allow me to turn to the 1992 Constitution of Ghana to build my argument.
Article 125 (1) states:
Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the Republic by the Judiciary which shall be independent and subject only to this constitution.
Let us break the sentence into two and attempt to draw a logical (not legal, with emphasis) conclusion.
A: Justice emanates from the people
B: The judiciary shall administer justice on behalf of the people
Conclusion one: The judiciary truly administers justice on behalf of the people in a just, timely and equitable manner, then justice is served and the people become satisfied that justice emanates from them. True.
Conclusion two: The judiciary fails to administer justice on behalf of the people, then people become discontented and begin to doubt if justice truly emanates from them. Alternatively, to nullify statement B, statement A is withheld.
Following conclusion two, when citizens become suspicious that the judiciary system they entrust with the management of justice which emanates from them is not administering justice in their interest premised on fairness and timeliness, the natural response would be to withhold and administer their own justice. Perception or reality, such unfortunately was the fate that befell the late Major. The reaction of the people of Denkyira Obuasi was a natural spontaneity of any society in which justice (perceived or real) is on sale, is the exclusive preserve of the elite, takes too long to achieve and even when it is administered, has another arm of government reverse it. While the mob action on the late Major was illegal, unacceptable, abominable and condemnable, it was logically correct.
I don’t advocate mob justice but let us reflect upon this as a nation: what should citizens do when the institutions entrusted to administer justice fails them?
We have spewed so many invectives and verbally lashed out at the people of Denkyira Obuasi to an extent that if sociologists and psychologists are not sent to assists these people, their children risk becoming delinquents and hardened criminals as a result of conditioning to the label and stereotype which has become their identity. How could the people of Denkyira Obuasi not administer their own justice (wrongfully in the Major’s case, though) when judges we have entrusted with the administration of justice have been found to take bribes; when suspects would slam a judge in court and walk free; when a president can abuse his executive powers by reversing justice meted out by a court of competent jurisdiction; when our political parties are funded through the spoils of galamsey (and we turn around to pretend to be committed to fighting it); when government officials are on tape to be scheming to make a million dollar profit and they are only fired without being properly investigated to ascertain whether or not such persons had already looted some public funds. Fact is, Ghanaians are bloated, not of gases but, of the daily occurrence of impunity and injustice in our society.
There is another facet to the gruesome murder of the late Major which has not received enough public debate. It is the possession of a firearm. Here again, we are faulting as a nation. The police administration has made the mere possession of a firearm a crime and the process to legally possess one is as choking and convoluted that if you want to possess one, the easiest way is to possess it illegally instead of the other way round. That is counterproductive. All of these has fed to a philosophy and an ever-growing culture that citizens who possess guns are criminals. And so when a person is spotted with a gun and there are no police around, mob justice becomes the only reasonable option. That simplistic and uneducated notion the police administration has poisoned citizens with ought to be re-examined and the citizenry educated on how to deal with persons possessing firearms in public.
Let us be frank, had the late Major not carried his gun, my guess is as good as yours: he probably would not have been lynched.
The Major’s death is still painful, but in this pain, let us find time to expose the real causes of the problems we face as a nation and deal with them. A delay in recognising that our judiciary has long lost the public’s trust and steps taken especially by our new Chief Justice to restore its image and, for our new government to demonstrate the commitment to fighting corruption and injustice, the lynching of Major Maxwell Mahama is just the harbinger, I’m sorry.
Your comments are welcome
Simon is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar. He was named among Africa’s 100 Brightest Young Minds and he is a recipient of the St Gallen Wings of Excellence Award. Simon is passionate about development issues on the African continent and the role young people can play to make Africa a better place. He is the founder of PeFHED and also runs a mentorship programme for African youngsters aged 18-25. In his spare time, he loves to travel and sightsee.