Friday, 26th June, 2020 saw my wife and I at the Ghana Law Court Complex, Accra for a Call to the Bar ceremony of our adopted daughter and her colleague new lawyers.
In my article “Semantic Acrobatics,” I indicated how amused I was by Prof Nana Aba Amfo, Pro- Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon’s title to her article “Coronally speaking, covidly expressed”
So, “coronally speaking,” this Call to the Bar was special as this was the first time lawyers were being called to the bar in Ghana under “covidious” conditions of the “new normal.” At exactly 10am, proceedings began on schedule and the first batch of 25 new lawyers was sworn in. Subsequently, two more batches were sworn in during the day. This staggering was to ensure that safety protocols were observed.
At the Complex, Veronica buckets were availed for handwashing. Hand sanitizers were also in attendance and flowed copiously both at the entrance to the Complex and the entrance to the auditorium.
Face/Nose masks and face shields also featured prominently. Indeed while the Chief Justice (CJ) wore a nose mask, the Attorney-General wore a face shield.
Going through security gave one the feeling of going through airport security, emptying pockets and hand bags before going through the scanner.
The auditorium was configured to observe social distancing, with only 25 lawyers being sworn in at a time. Each new lawyer was allowed only two invitees.
My forehead was thermometer-gunned twice for my temperature, once before I entered the Complex, and the second before I entered the auditorium.
In contrast to the orderly Law Court Complex scenario, driving from home through Teshie-Nungua, Teshie, La and Osu to the Complex, I could virtually count the number of people in face/nose masks. Some of the few who had the masks on wore them under their chin, probably aping what they see some big people do on television.
More disturbingly, I did not observe any social distancing as people mingled freely as if COVID-19 is over.
Following the easing of restrictions, the US experienced forty thousand new infections on Friday 26th June, 2020. In Germany about 1500 people working in a meat packaging plant were diagnosed positive with COVID-19.
Previously relaxed restrictions have therefore been reversed.
Our obvious lack of seriousness and blatant disobedience in observing safety protocols is alarming. Unfortunately, radio discussions suggest that some Ghanaians think they can do the right thing only when they are chased by security agents.
The ceremony itself was brief, started on time and lasted just thirty minutes. The CJ’s remarks covered some of the following.
Unsurprisingly, he started by advising the new lawyers about the essence of time consciousness, unfortunately a rare commodity in Ghana.
While congratulating the new lawyers for successfully going through years of hard work and sacrifice, he exhorted them not to consider their call to the bar as the end of learning, but rather as the beginning of a long life of constant quest for knowledge.
The CJ asked the young lawyers to be humble in their dealings with society. For some reason, humility appears to have taken leave of Ghanaians. Sometimes, the arrogance and blatant disrespect with which Ghanaians treat fellow Ghanaians is mind-boggling. Very strong language appears to be the “new normal!”
One lawyer, one pen
My attention was drawn to something by a doctor friend who sat “one social distance” away from me, (an empty chair between us.) After receiving their certificates from the CJ, the young lawyers moved to a table to sign the Lawyers’ Roll. Each picked a bic pen from the box, signed the register, and moved away with the pen. Ordinarily, the same pen would have been used by all the lawyers.
This was an interesting reminder that, in these “covidic” times, that two cedi bic pen could be encased in a glass container for posterity as one of the greatest presents on their graduation day.
The usual handshakes CJs gave new lawyers in “pre-covidian” times were visibly absent. Not even the CJ’s son who also graduated as a lawyer that day could shake hands with his father.
The first ever Call to the Bar of new lawyers in COVID-19 times which took place on Friday, 26th June 2020 observed good safety protocols as recommended.
Indeed, two Justices I had not met for a while exchanged pleasantries with me in the “new normal” way with our elbows!
I found the promptness with which proceedings started at 10 am on the dot as planned, and the denial of late-comers entry into the auditorium after 10am, a good practical lesson for the young lawyers in time-consciousness.
Finally, they were advised not to make money their focus but the pursuit of justice, with a reminder of the saying that, a good name is better than gold!
Fellow Ghanaians, this too shall pass!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO. African Peace Support Trainers Association
Family Health University College,