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Nigerians brace for more violence as voters choose state governors

Stakes in Tuesday's state governors races are high, both for incumbents who want to hold onto their lucrative seats and for opposition challengers.

By Maggie FickCorrespondent / April 26, 2011

People register to vote in Lagos, Nigeria, April 26. Nigerians headed to the polls on Tuesday to choose powerful state governors amid fears of a resurgence of the violence that left hundreds dead after a presidential election earlier this month.

Joseph Penney/Reuters

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Jos, Nigeria

With Africa's most populous nation still reeling from a wave of election violence that killed hundreds and shook the northern region of Nigeria after the April 16 presidential polls, many citizens are fearing more deadly reprisals in today's hotly contested state governor races.

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State governors here wield enormous power and influence, mainly through their unlimited access to public funds and state budgets, which in some states in the oil-rich Niger Delta region top those of some neighboring countries in West Africa. So stakes in these local elections are high, both for incumbents who want to hold onto their lucrative seats and for opposition challengers who represent the hopes of disgruntled constituents.

Indeed, this final round of Nigeria's critical three-stage vote could well be the most volatile, according to Nigerian analysts and local press coverage.

Postelection violence

Wounds are still open from the election unrest. On Easter Sunday, villages held mass burials to mourn the dead from several massacres in rural Kaduna State, where violence spread early last week after youths armed with clubs and knives took to the streets of the northern cities of Kaduna and Kano. The youths, many of them unemployed, began rioting April 18 over the anticipated victory of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan over their hero, popular opposition candidate and ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

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