Business in Ghana

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Because I Need To Believe. Critical News, 21st December 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on December 21, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Turning left coming out of TV Africa studios where I had just finished recording a show, I was appalled at the spectacle of a group of people pounding mercilessly on a helpless victim curled knees to chest on the floor, hopelessly covering his head with his bare hands, trying to avoid the next blow.

I made a decision to drive by and “di mi fie asem” when I spotted a youthful macho approaching with what looked like a six-inch concrete block heading for the helpless victim. I changed my mind, careened to the side road in a screeching halt, pounding my horn at the same time.

Taking advantage of the distraction, I came out of the car yelling in twi for all of them to step aside and stop the beating. I managed a quick run, adrenalin pumping through the old body and confronted those I thought were the ringleaders.

The next exchange took place local language as I tried to understand the purpose of this attempted murder.

Back and forth for another thirty minutes, I finally made some sense and with a cell phone in hand taking pictures as fast as I could, I finally quelled the mob and they started drifting away, back-yelling insults and challenging my authority as they moved ways from the crime scene.

They had intended to kill the poor guy on “suspicion” that he was a known pickpocket in the area and was snooping around the parked cars in the vicinity looking for something to steal.

He had stolen nothing; not yet, but they were going to kill him.

I hailed a taxi and paid the driver to take him to Korle Bu and hopefully he would get timely treatment.

The following day the Daily Guide carried a story of another man who was saved by the timely intervention of a policeman, when a lynch mob trapped him for “intention” to steal yam.

In the civilized country of Canada, their criminal law does not distinguish between the principal offenders and parties to an offence and makes perpetrators, aiders and abettors equally liable. Of course, doing or omitting to do something that results in assisting another in committing a crime is not sufficient to attract criminal liability. The aider or abettor must also have the requisite mental state, or mens rea. Specifically, in the words of s.21(1)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code, the person must have rendered the assistance for the purpose of aiding the principal offender to commit the crime.

The persons involved in the beating, lynching should be fully aware that their actions were criminal. But because we still believe in instant justice in the Zongos and far out communities, we mete out this form of injustice and murder without any fear of prosecution and arrest. In a few instances, yes, but by and large, many get away with this form of assault and murder.

Willful blindness (sometimes called ignorance of law, willful ignorance or contrived ignorance or Nelsonian knowledge) is a term used in law to describe a situation in which an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting his or herself in a position where he or she will be unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.

For example, in a number of cases, persons transporting packages containing illegal drugs have asserted that they never asked what the contents of the packages were and so lacked the requisite intent to break the law.

Such defenses have not succeeded, as courts have been quick to determine that the defendant should have known what was in the package and exercised criminal recklessness by failing to find out

And that should make dancing executives celebrating the willful decision to not “tie obiaa” an illegality, right?

The doctrine of willful blindness imputes knowledge to an accused whose suspicion is aroused to the point where he or she sees the need for further inquiries, but deliberately chooses not to make those inquiries.

This was similarly stated in the U.S. case of State v McCallum: “The rule is that if a party has his suspicion aroused but then deliberately omits to make further inquiries, because he wishes to remain in ignorance, he is deemed to have knowledge…. The rule that willful blindness is equivalent to knowledge is essential….

“A finding of wilful blindness involves an affirmative answer to the question: Did the accused shut his eyes because he knew or strongly suspected that looking would fix him with knowledge?”

Courts and commentators have consistently emphasized that willful blindness is distinct from recklessness.

While a failure to inquire may be evidence of recklessness or criminal negligence, as for example, where a failure to inquire is a marked departure from the conduct expected of a reasonable person, willful blindness is not simply a failure to inquire but “deliberate ignorance.”

A court can properly find willful blindness only where it can almost be said that the defendant actually knew. He suspected the fact; he realized its probability; but he refrained from obtaining the final confirmation because he wanted in the event to be able to deny knowledge.

One of my favorite writers, Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don’t see – not because they’re secret or invisible, but because we’re willfully blind.

She examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?

Examining examples of willful blindness in the Catholic Church, the SEC, Nazi Germany, Bernard Madoff’s investors, BP’s safety record, the military in Afghanistan and the dog-eat-dog world of sub-prime mortgage lenders, her latest book demonstrates how failing to see – or admit to ourselves or our colleagues – the issues and problems in plain sight can ruin private lives and bring down corporations.

And how does all this translate into our body fabric?

When you call a black sheep a white cow, when you state that problems are mere challenges, when you give the false hope that incessant prayer will resolve all problems and when you rightly know that by over-spending your budget far beyond responsible levels and recklessly draining cash to prop up an election campaign, there is a large measure of willful blindness.

I have stated very often my disregard for Jerry John Rawlings and his chaos-mindset to secure popularity by any means possible.

We buried our Uncle Louis Casely-Hayford Tuesday 16th. A quiet ceremony as he wished, but unfortunately we invited JJ; they were good buddies – I never knew why.

So it was rather unfortunate that a private ceremony paying tribute to a person who sacrificed a lot and gave up most of his life to do what he was trained best for and succeeded more than failed should be used to raise the stature of a treasoner.

I interviewed JJ in 2007 in a plush hotel in Virginia, USA, where he was on a trip of sorts. I asked point blank what he planned to do with himself and what legacy he would leave for Ghanaians. I suggested malaria eradication in Africa.

His counter was water. I was impressed because I thought equally important was the challenge of providing clean potable water in Africa. The rest of the off-record interview deteriorated as he did the exact same thing he did yesterday at the NDC congress. Climbing on the backs of others to make himself important, especially when they are not in a position to defend themselves.

To date, Jerry has done nothing on the water challenge.

And NDC Ghana recognised Akua Donkor because she announced herself a presidential candidate; mounted her on a platform to willfully, blindly come tell us that John Dramani Mahama is a gift from God.

Why do we turn a blind eye and sculpture ignorance and stupidity into worshipful podiums?

I need to believe that some good will come out of some place, someone, some group in this country. For that alone, I will continue to push the OccupyGhana good governance campaign. I used to say, we have our freedom, but where the justice?

If JJ can stand in front of a crowd today, is free to yell all the nonsense he does, it is because we moved him aside so we could have a democracy befitting decent, sensible people. Viva the street paved green.

Ghana, Aha a ye din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!

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