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Nigerian Opposition Says Ghana Polls Fine Example for Nigeria

Nigeria's main opposition party has lavished praise on the peaceful conduct of elections in Ghana and the orderly transition of power. Flawed elections since the return to civil democracy in 1999 have seriously eroded the credibility of Nigeria's electoral process and raised questions about the future of democracy in Africa's most populous country.

The Action Congress party says the smooth conduct of elections is ample proof that democracy is taking deeper root in Ghana. It observed that the process was devoid of violence in the streets, mass stuffing of ballot boxes and outright manipulation of results by the electoral body- characteristics of recent elections in Nigeria.

The Action Congress, which sent a delegation to Wednesday's inauguration of the new Ghanaian president, commended the head of Ghana's electoral commission for his dedication and professionalism in managing the process. Lai Mohammed speaks for the party.

"Between 1996 and today, the chairman of the electoral commission in Ghana has organized four elections. And in each election, he has allowed the wishes of the Ghanaian to triumph irrespective of whether his appointer was also contesting or the government in power was also recontesting," said Mohammed.

Nigerian elections in 2007 were so marred by vote rigging and intimidation that foreign and domestic observers said they were not credible. The Supreme Court last month upheld the election of President Umaru Yar'Adua, dismissing appeals from the Action Congress and the All Nigeria Peoples Party that the vote be annulled on grounds of irregularities.

But not everyone agrees that the country could learn some important lessons in democracy from its West African neighbor.

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe says, "We have one virtue which sometimes becomes a vice. And which is that we are very self-critical. Nobody can criticize Nigerians more than Nigerians can criticize themselves. But when Nigerians over do, it becomes self-destructive. And at the end of the day outsiders will use the very things we are saying about ourselves to undermine us. So for goodness sake, we wish Ghana well, we congratulate them, we need not draw any lessons from Ghana. All the lessons we need are here in Nigeria."

Ghana is one of the few in Africa to successfully transfer power twice from one legitimately elected leader to another.

More than a dozen African countries are scheduled to go to the polls in 2009. Election campaigners across the continent of Africa will be hoping that Ghana's poll marks a new era of competitive and peaceful elections in Africa.