Bar. One of those words that confound the public. Simply Google the word ‘bar,’ and check the associated images on Google (Clifton Club, World’s best bars for 2022; Apio African bar, etc); then decide for yourself whether or not to celebrate any call to the bar extended to a member of your family. In that case, the recent grand ceremony in Accra where scores and scores of our children, friends and relations were called to the Bar, could be bad news.
There was once a special drink in Ghana, called ‘Lawyer’ manufactured by GIHOC—presumably your best recourse if you needed to squarely confront a stubborn father-in-law. That drink was your attorney. But who knows? It could also be the menu served on the day novitiates are called to the Bar!
The story gets messier hearing that ‘graduates’ called to the Bar successfully accomplished their feat at Makola, Accra’s biggest market located at the city centre. Your family could then be thrown into endless wailing and mourning. You have spent hard cash educating your son or daughter, only for them to graduate at Makola. Buei.
A few clicks later, the same Google wipes your tears referring to ‘Ghana Bar Association’ as a professional association of lawyers…, by which time you would probably have collapsed! Happily, any course in law comes with its own norms and rigor, and occasionally throws up fake lawyers such as was recently named and shamed in Kenya.
But whoever chose Makola as the site for the professional law school in Ghana, did the nation and profession a world of good. It should instill humility and remind practicing lawyers of the pedestrian turf into which their umbilical law is buried. No need for pomposity above the Makola level. That is why I salute all fresh lawyers.
Congratulations, new lawyers!
But I also salute the several sages and custodians of local law and logic, quietly nestled in rural Ghana. Call them ‘pocket lawyers,’ sometimes non-literate or with modest education, but noted for clarity of thought and socio-logic, sometimes limping off or blowing their noses, after making spirited submissions at the chief’s palace.
In my humble abode there were such notables, and I take this opportunity to celebrate one such in my family: Kojo Yamoah a cousin, who in our teen years was so vocal and legalistic he attracted the nickname Akoto, after Okyeame Baffuor Akoto of Ashanti, the great orator and philosopher who never went to school but founded the National Liberation Movement (NLM) to oppose Kwame Nkrumah. Kojo Yamoah, alias Akoto, I celebrate you and unlettered generations you inspired during our youthful days. Such luminaries needed no call to the bar; they were born and bred at the bar, and acquitted themselves in every controversy.
But the recent call to the bar incidentally dropped a piece of information that sent me rushing to the social media to save a looming disaster.
It was dangerous in itself if you were born into an ethnic group well noted for litigation, and you additionally chose to be a lawyer. The peculiar case of a lawyer called Ace Ankomah, I suggest should be of public interest. A recently inducted Fellow of Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Ace is also Akim-born, an ethnicity well known and feared as incurably litigant: capable of selling large tracts of landed property to get enough money to start the next litigation (mansotwe). Simply consider the number of families whose surname, Manso, simply means litigation. Ace Ankomah sealed the deal by also training as a lawyer having been called to the Bar in 1992. To add to the toxic, Ankomah’s family at the recent public ceremony, produced three additional lawyers, Maame, Paapa, and Twumasiwaa, to wrap the entire family entirely in law and ‘mansotwe,’ without apologies.
Reading this Breaking News, it was my duty as a social watchdog, to put out this public advisory, which I instantly copied to Ace (and to the Fire Service), dated 21st October 2023:
“This must be a dangerous family
One to avoid.” I stated on whatsapp.
To which Ace replied with a confessionary chuckle:
Congrats to all new lawyers and the Ace Ankomah family.
But the general public, particularly their neighbors, must please take notice and watch their step. As it said, ‘if you see something, say something.’