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Adamu Daramani Sakande (1962-2020): an honourable legacy

The late MP for Bawku Central, a citizen of the world whose life exemplified public service and grace under fire, was laid to rest in his home town today. Friends say he paid the ultimate price for his belief in democracy

Adamu Daramani Sakande (1962-2020) was a gentleman, a consummate democrat and a true-blue scion of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition who hailed from one of the royal houses of Bawku.

His mother is a retired public servant and his father was a GNTC manager who died when Adamu was just four. He was raised by his mother, his grandmother and his uncle Imoro Salifu, regional minister for the Upper Region in the government of Kofi Abrefa Busia.

An activist in the anti-military student protest movements of the 1980s, he went into exile in the United Kingdom in 1988. He played an active part in many pro-democracy demonstrations in London during the dark days of military rule before the birth of Ghana’s Fourth Republic in 1992.

That year, he became a founder member of the UK branch of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). His was always the moderate voice of reason, the wise contributor to deliberations by the executive committee of NPP UK during his tenure as vice-chairman to Kwaku Ampratwum Sarpong, now the MP for Mampong, and then Hayford Atta Krufi.

Not only did he demonstrate loyalty, devotion to duty and commitment to the values, ideals and aspirations of the NPP, but he was affable, approachable, open-handed and an astute leader who was hugely resourceful.

Rise, decline and fall

Adamu walked the talk and left his loving young family, good job and warm friends in London to move to Ghana and serve his motherland by engaging in active politics.

In 2008 he was elected to represent his people as the MP for Bawku Central in the fifth parliament of the Fourth Republic, winning the seat back from the NDC’s Mahama Ayariga and following in the footsteps of the legendary Hawa Yakubu Ogede.

His period of formal public service did not last long, however. He was callously betrayed by his own kinsmen and accused of not being a Ghanaian, because he was the holder of a British passport that was about to expire. The sole objective of the campaign waged against him was to deprive him of the parliamentary seat he had competed for and won so fairly.

In a case that stretched the definitions of Ghanaian nationality beyond recognition, Adamu was dragged to court, convicted and incarcerated by what some see as an unbending and unmerciful legal system which played to the tune of the powers of the day.

Questions of belonging

The Supreme Court case Bielbiel v Daramani and Another (J1/2/2010) [2011] GHASC 24 (26 October 2011) is a stain on our legal case history. It sent an unfortunate signal to those young Ghanaians who, through no fault of their own, were born in the diaspora or who have acquired non-Ghanaian citizenship during their years abroad, and who harbour hopes of serving their motherland one day, without having to endure the ignominy of having to prove that they are not traitors.

The legal arguments turned on Article 94(2)(a) of the 1992 constitution.

In 2012 Adamu Daramani Sakande was sentenced to two years in prison by an Accra high court which heard allegations that he had perjured himself, deceived a public officer and made a false declaration by voting. He began serving his sentence at the Nsawam Medium-Security Prison on 27 July.

While in jail, a prevailing cardiac condition grew considerably worse. On 31 December the then president, John Dramani Mahama, granted him a pardon on compassionate grounds. At the time, Mahama Ayariga, who had just won back the Bawku seat in the 2012 general election, described the pardon as unfair.

Adamu Sakande sought treatment for his condition abroad but his health had declined and he never made a recovery.

 

“Irrational fear”

There is no rhyme or reason to the insidious social malady that has left us believing that, in this day and age, a dual national cannot be loyal to the land where so many generations of his or her ancestors lie buried. Let the message go out that dual nationals do not commit treason or betray their country by seeking to serve their people in any of the high offices of state. Adamu was not a traitor, he was not a phony, he was not a fraud.

After his death, the constitutional legal scholar Kwaku Asare, a colleague patriot from student days, wrote: “We failed Adamu Sakande when the state opted to prosecute him for being elected to represent the good people of Bawku Central in Parliament.

“For a country that has been a trailblazer at reaching out to the African diaspora, where foreign firms are routinely hired as transaction advisors, where foreigners are daily enstooled as chiefs, it is bizarre that we will seek to disqualify Ghanaians from holding public office merely because they are, like Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and Chairman Rawlings, citizens of other countries.

“The decision as to whether a dual citizen can represent his constituency must be left to those constituents,” Asare argued. And he added: “The notion that dual citizens should not be allowed to compete in the political space is a highly outmoded notion kept afloat by an irrational fear that they will usher in competition for incumbent MPs.”

Remains of Adamu Daramani Sakande arrive in Bawku, 29.10.2020
Remains of Adamu Daramani Sakande arrive at the royal court in Bawku

Repeal the law

As Professor Asare has observed, we cannot be comfortable hiring a Serbian to coach the Black Stars to play against Serbia, yet somehow think it right to prosecute a Ghanaian because he has been elected by his people to represent them. Dual nationals should be allowed to compete not only in politics, but all other spheres of national life. For the sake of those coming behind us, let us not internalise this blight, or shrink our horizons.

Another close friend of Adamu, Marlon Anipa, said: “We of the Ghanaian diaspora will be making a definitive and decisive statement at his funeral by our sheer numbers, love and affection. And we will get the article repealed in our lifetime.”

Adamu Daramani Sakande was a true son of Ghana. The high regard in which others held him was evident as his mortal remains arrived in Accra on Monday 26 October, accompanied by his wife, Eva, and their two daughters, Michelle and Winboda.

 

An interdenominational Mass in his honour took place in Accra the following day, attended by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Today (Thursday 29 October) an air force plane carried him to Tamale for an onward journey by road to Bawku, and his final resting place.

Remains of Adamu Daramani Sakande arrive in Tamale, 29.10.2020
The remains of Honourable Adamu Daramani Sakande arrive in Tamale, 29 October

Let us honour the memory of Adamu Daramani Sakande by swiftly repealing Article 94(2)(a) of the 1992 constitution. And may the dark, rich soil of his ancestral home to which he has just returned rest gently on his remains.

David Owusu Yianoma

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