Following are some of the regional races which will be closely watched.
— Bayelsa state: Incumbent governor Timipre Sylva, from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), faces a challenge from ex-presidential adviser Timi Alaibe, who was the main man on the ground responsible for implementing an amnesty for militants.
There is a bitter rivalry between the two. Sylva saw himself politically overshadowed by Alaibe’s success with the amnesty. Ex-militants have in the past been used for political thuggery and there has already been violence including bombs and an attack by gunmen at political rallies.
— Delta state: PDP governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was in January declared winner of a re-run election, held amid tight security, after a court last year overturned his 2007 victory.
His main opponent, Great Ogboru, questioned the conduct of the re-run, and his supporters alleged rigging, setting the stage for a fierce showdown in April.
— Close races in states on the fringe of the Niger Delta, including Imo and Abia, where armed gangs could also be used for political thuggery, are also seen as potential danger areas.
— Plateau state: More than 200 people have been killed in and around the state capital Jos since December in sectarian clashes between indigenous groups, mostly Christian, and settlers from the mostly Muslim north. [ID:nLDE70T051]
The tension is rooted in fierce competition for local political power and control of fertile farmlands, resentment which local government policies have done little to calm. Campaign rallies could trigger further violence.
— Adamawa state: The home state of Nuhu Ribadu, former head of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency who is one of Jonathan’s challengers at the presidential election.
Ribadu’s opposition Action Congress of Nigeria needs to put in a good showing against the incumbent governor, who is locked in his own internal power struggle in the PDP with former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Jonathan’s main ruling party rival.
— Katsina state: The home state of former military ruler , who is Jonathan’s main opposition rival at the presidential elections. Buhari will need a big win here if he is to mount any serious opposition to the ruling party.
— Borno state: Radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, which launched an uprising in 2009 in which hundreds of people were killed, has increasingly targeted politicians in its attacks.
Gunmen in January assassinated Modu Fannami Gubio, the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) candidate who was favourite to win in April, and pledged further attacks on the ANPP which controls the state. [ID:nLDE70R287]
— Kano: Opposition-controlled state whose governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, is running against Jonathan in the presidential race.
Home to northern Nigeria’s most populous city, Kano is a key opposition stronghold the PDP will be keen to win.
Another opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change, is also fielding a son of late dictator Sani Abacha for the contest.
— Kwara: Succession to PDP Governor Bukola Saraki, who has served two terms and had planned to challenge Jonathan in the presidential race, risks dividing the state’s most powerful political family.
Saraki’s sister is bidding for the governorship on an opposition platform, backed by her father, arguably the most powerful figure in Kwara state politics.
But Bukola Saraki is seen as a potential presidential challenger in 2015 and will need to deliver victory for the PDP if he is to boost his chances.
— Ogun state: There has been controversy within the PDP with incumbent governor Gbenga Daniel wanting to seek a Senate seat after serving two terms as governor, but facing opposition from former president and PDP stalwart Olusegun Obasanjo.
Prolonged wrangling could strengthen the chances of the opposition ACN, which holds several other states in the southwest including the commercial capital Lagos.
— Oyo state: This will be a key battle ground with PDP governor Christopher Alao-Akala facing strong opposition in a state which has already seen political violence, including the murder of a union leader during a rally last month.