A man in in the Jigawa state of Nigeria was recently jailed for posting a pointed curse on his Facebook profile about the governor of Jigawa.
Writing in the local Hausa dialect on January 18, Moukhtar Ibrahim Aminu asked for “divine punishment” to be delivered upon Governor Sule Lamido, a politician who helped form the ruling People’s Democratic Party when Nigeria became a democracy more than a decade ago.
Arrested and held for seven days for defamation, Aminu’s actions carry significant weight in the country from where he hails from, where an ancient animistic tradition jockeys alongside more familiar religious creeds such as Christianity and Islam.
His curse translates into English as: “Allah curse Sule Lamido and all his useless friends. Allah make Sule Lamido and his friend useless,” according to the U.K. Press Association.
Many people in the region believe that such curses can damage people for life – and not just in terms of reputation. While a 1983 law gives Nigerian citizens freedom of speech, Aminu’s was arrested at the request of the governor, whose office offered no formal statement about the action.
Nigeria has a presidential election coming up in April, and it’s possible that the timing of this curse just a few months before the contest might have amplified the governor’s concerns about the posting.
Does the legal action in Nigeria constitute an unjust form of censorship, or do cultural issues and the fact that the Facebook post was a curse justify the arrest and jail time?