FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, October 5, 2019
tunga.lergo@sfcollege.edu
Gainesville, Florida, USA
GOAT 59: A METAPHOR OF NIGERIA IN 2019

This is the story of a goat named 59. A true story.

n September 7, 2019, the Nigerian Community in the city of Gainesville, Florida, met for the second time in 2019 to plan to celebrate the 59th year of Nigerian independence. A member of the community, a psychiatrist, gleefully announced that a friend of his had offered him a goat and that he was donating it for the independence celebration. He had not seen the goat but was assured it could be eaten, and for his part the psychiatrist's friend knew that the goat was to be slaughtered quite soon for the celebration. However, Goat 59 had to be retrieved within just a few days or else the goat would be given to someone else.

It was September 7, and our independence celebration was scheduled for October 5, the first Saturday of October 1st, our Independence Day. The community was thankful for and excited about the donation of the goat. Beyond the usual one or two goats for the party, we were to have plenty of goat meat this year to celebrate Nigeria at the age of 59. Despite the rigged 2019 elections, , all the killings and kidnappings in the homeland, not to mention the massive unemployment there, some of us were prepared to delude ourselves, if only transiently, into believing that all is well with Nigeria-and all because of this chance to have greater access to the delicacy of goat meat. And so we agreed unanimously: we would accept the gift.

I was charged with retrieving the goat. As it turned out, I would have to travel about 30 miles to pick up the goat in the town where the psychiatrist's friend lived. I must say it again: Nigerians love goat meat; it is considered a delicacy in the diaspora, even in the homeland. The problem was that, because I live within the city limit, I was subject to restrictions on keeping live animals. For the love of Nigeria, however, I decided to take the risk of violating Gainesville's city ordinances. May God forgive me. Amen!

I scheduled my trip to Bronson, Florida, to get the goat, for September 14. But before then, full of excitement about my upcoming journey, I visited two Nigerian businesses in town. First, I visited the pharmacist and announced that I was on my way to purchase ropes and food for October's sacrificial lamb. He, too, was excited. I told him how enthusiastic I was to travel out of town to get the goat; neither of us wanted to miss this opportunity. (Note that at this point I had not yet given the goat a name.)

Then I visited the owner of the only African store in town. We reminisced about our individual experiences of buying goats for Christmas in America and discussed how Americans have humanized animals. I told him about the time in Tallahassee when a group of Africans-a Cameroonian, a Ghanaian, and a Nigerian (myself)--found a classified ad in the newspaper about a goat for sale. This goat turned out to a pet goat. We traveled a long way with our butchering tools to get the animal; we planned to butcher the goat away from home since at the time we all were living in apartments. Upon our arrival, we bought the goat from a very nice white family. They had a large property and we thought we had found a nice place to slaughter the goat in some undeveloped land bordering their property. We took the goat there and slaughtered it. All of a sudden, a little boy ran up, yelling: "Daddy, Daddy, they've killed Billy, they've killed Billy," before running back to the house. The father, with his son sobbing behind him, came up to us next. He said, "What are you doing? What are you doing? You've killed Billy?" We three Africans looked at him in confusion. We thought, What is wrong with this man and his son? Why are they so upset? "Yes, we slaughtered the goat," we said in unison, like a chorus. Note that we did not say "killed," let alone "killed Billy." "You bought it to kill it?" was the father's retort. What a dumb question, in our view. Why would any African buy a goat, if not for food or milk? Billy was a he-goat. His only use now, as far as we were concerned, was for meat.

The owner of African Unique store in Gainesville then reciprocated with a story of his own about an experience involving the purchase of pet goats here in America. He and three friends answered an ad for sale of a goat. They went to buy it. First, they met a boy there who politely greeted them and asked, "You came for Garry?". They said they did not come for Garry. But before they could say what they came for, the mother came out of the house. "Oh, you came for Garry"? She asked. "No, we did not come for Garry. We came for the goat you advertised". At this point, they were becoming impatient- who is this Garry! "Yes, his name is Garry", she assured them. In the end, they did not buy Garry, because Nigerians don't name their goats and they weren't going to eat a goat called Garry.

Well, back to Goat 59. October 5 was fast approaching, and I traveled to Bronson to meet with the psychiatrist's friend. I told him that I was going to keep the goat on my property, in violation of city ordinances, until the morning of October 4, when our goat-meat committee would "murder" the animal (sacrifice it, I should have said) for the independence celebration. I hoped that the goat would be the Lamb that would make Nigeria better again.

We met at a convenience store and then, after a series of misdirection, we both arrived at the property of this friend's own friend, who was the actual owner of the goat. So now I was able to put two and two together. Nigeria is a confused nation, and that's why our Nigerian psychiatrist gave us a goat, given to him by his friend, who was in turn given the goat by a friend of his own. Nigeria will survive, no matter what it takes!!

We were able to capture the goat in question, from among several goats on the same property; it took us about 10 minutes. We bound the animal up and put it in my car-and during all this time, I never saw the real owner of the goat (the British, the true maker of Nigeria, have left the scene). I shook hands with the friend of the psychiatrist and thanked him profusely, assuring him how grateful the Nigerian community was for his generosity. Just as I drew one leg up into the car while preparing to drive off, he called out happily: "Congratulations! You will soon be a father."

My mind raced as I tried to puzzle out what he meant. I had been a father three times over-but that was long ago. Did he mean "grandfather"? Did the psychiatrist tell him something about one of my own children? Was one of them expecting, even though I hadn't been informed about it? Then, a split second later, he said, "she is pregnant." Did I hear him correctly? Pregnant? Who? But then I realized that he meant the goat. He confirmed this by stating explicitly: "The goat is pregnant."

Wow! Pregnant? My God! A hot Florida sun was burning in the sky that Saturday, but nonetheless a cold sweat started forming on my forehead. How could it be? The Nigerian community couldn't kill a pregnant goat. And yet I couldn't keep a pregnant goat on my property indefinitely, in violation of the city's ordinances. I might have been able to avoid detection if I kept the goat for just two or three weeks; but indefinitely? Part of me told me to reject the offer of the goat outright. But another part said that the goat was already in the car, and that, given how much effort had been expended, I should not refuse the offer. Moreover, it would have been impolite to reject the gift. Then I remembered a friend of mine who kept goats on a larger property. I would take the goat. I closed the car door, wound down the window, and thanked him again for his gift.

Just then he dropped another bombshell. "Oh, she is blind in one eye," this friend of a friend (of a friend) casually announced. This time, the devil told me to use Nigerian on him-to call him the worst imaginable names in the most vulgar Nigerian language. But thanks to the saints in heaven, I did not. With exaggerated calmness and politeness, I spoke American to him: "No problem. Have a nice day, my friend." And then I drove off.

Needless to say, that one-eyed goat-the animal who would become Goat 59-created a scene as I drove back to Gainesville in my SUV. At one point, I became so paranoid that I thought a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was tailing me. But it was a blessing in disguise because I forgot all that I would have to do to accommodate the goat when I got home. Sometimes, a temporary madness can free you from the dictatorship of reality.

Back home, though, reality set in again. What was I going to do with a goat that I had developed a temporary affection for-a goat that for days I had been gearing up to slaughter for a celebration in honor of my home country, but that I now knew to be pregnant and also blind in one eye? Who would not be compassionate toward such a goat? Yet the decision to butcher the animal for the independence celebration was irreversible. What should I do?

Then it came back to me that I needed to call my physician friend-a fellow Nigerian and member of our Gainesville group---who has a large property and who keeps goats in an adjacent town. It was a great relief when he agreed to let me bring the goat to his property and drop it in with his own goats. It was also a relief to hear him say that 59's being pregnant-by now, I had begun calling the goat "59" --was a plus for our community. It meant, he said, that the goat would give birth, perhaps even to twins, and that we would therefore have more goats for the 2020 celebration. I did all I could to secure the goat in a shady spot in my yard, to wait out the two or three days that she would have to spend on my property before moving to my friend's property.

When I brought the goat to the property to drop her off a couple of days later. my friend was not there, but his dear wife was. As I prepared to release the goat into the cattle enclosure, she remarked that 59 had worms. Indeed, the goat was badly infested with worms. I couldn't believe it: I had encountered yet another bombshell revelation in connection with 59! But I concurred with my friend's wife that 59 should not be released, given the risk that the worms might spread to the other goats.

I took 59 back home and bought the appropriate de-worming medications. Three days later, though, I received still another shock. Despite the serious precautions I had taken to secure 59, when I returned from work on the third day, the goat was nowhere to be found. I searched the undergrowth and shrubs on my property, but there was no sign of 59. I couldn't believe it! How could a one-eyed, pregnant goat have escaped from a well-fortified enclosure?

I posted flyers on my neighbors' mailboxes, except my next-door neighbor's: he has a fenced yard and keeps his gate locked all the time, so nothing, not even rats, could have gotten into his yard. But where was 59? For days, I expected PETA or the Humane Society to contact me. (As an aside, I should mention that some animals in the U. S. have better lives-better food, dental care and health care, more rights-than poor humans in less developed countries. Sometimes, at least, it is better to be an animal in America than a human in Africa or in other parts of the world.) But in any case, none of my neighbors responded. I began to lose faith that 59 would be found.

I contemplated going to the news media, using social media, or even alerting PETA. I had developed an affection for 59, despite all the trouble she had caused. Her main plus was that she was pregnant. Then a miracle happened! Going to work one morning, I greeted my neighbor with the heavily secured property and told him that I was missing a goat. To my surprise, he said that his daughter had found a one-eyed goat about four days earlier and that the family had been tending to the animal ever since. He knew that I kept chickens and guinea fowls but was not aware that I had goats. Hence, he hadn't thought to get in touch with me. He also said that his family had planned to spread the word about the goat on social media and to alert PETA.

The upshot is that 59 is now back in my yard, in violation of the city's ordinances. Nigerians in Gainesville celebrated Nigeria's independence with a party on October 5. We had goat meat, to be sure; but 59 was not on the menu. I don't know how long she will be spared; perhaps 59 and her offspring will be our delicacy when Nigeria turns 60. She was not the sacrificial lamb for Nigeria at 59.

But here is the big question: Is 59 really pregnant? I have spent a lot of time observing 59 but have witnessed neither a birth nor a miscarriage. At this point, I strongly believe that 59 is not pregnant--another shocking development! The report of her pregnancy was either a lie or a mistake. Is 59 blind in one eye, though? Sure, she is. That's why she gets entangled in her rope and shrubs, with me having to disentangle her every day. She is hardly able to access her water and food bowls without tripping on them. It is very frustrating to be always directing her to her food source. She needs constant care. I am beginning to wonder if she will survive to October 2020.

Does 59 has worms? Yes, that is true, too. She is presently undergoing de-worming. I am determined to get her ready for October 2020. I have hope in her.

Now, what is the meaning of all my experiences with 59? Or what are those experiences a metaphor of? In all honesty, I did not set out to write this article. It just happened. The Nigerian psychiatrist offered 59. But 59, who is now my love, gave me the inspiration I needed to write this account. Nigeria under the All Progressives Congress, or APC, is a messed-up country under a rigged government. It is a scam country-an insane country. Indeed, there is no country that is as directionless as Nigeria, except perhaps for Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, or Somalia. Nigeria is at risk of being a failed state. Many have concluded that its failures were caused by the British. Be that as it may, Nigeria has a president who is directionless, and who has no mental or political acumen to lead the country. If it weren't for the accident of his birth and the power of election rigging, he wouldn't be president. As old as he is, and with such limited intellectual ability, he should not be president. If Nigeria needs a Fulani man to lead the country, there are more capable ones than Buhari, who is worn out and has no business being in government-especially since he seems to be promoting an agenda of creating a Fulani subregion, with Nigeria as its capital. There are young, energetic Northerners, if Nigeria must be led by such a person, who could do the job better.

Buhari, like Goat 59, is a Big Lie, a deception for a hidden agenda. He is blind to two thirds of Nigeria's population. Goat 59 is also a metaphor for the rigged 2019 election that brought to power the Buhari regime for second term-a regime that is the sponsor of Fulani herdsmen's unbridled killings of the Hausa and northern farmers from minority communities, as well as members of the Igbo, Yoruba, and southern farming communities. Like 59 and some of the other animals in America, the cows of the Fulani are humanized. In fact, cows, for them, are more important than human beings, given that recently, when 36 cows mysteriously died in a sacred mountain area in Ijare, Ondo State, the government set about investigating the incident. The government does not seem to understand that if it can't control the atrocities by its revered ethnic group, our ancestors would. By contrast, the Fulani have killed countless people all over the country, and there has never been an investigation into these murders.

Goat 59 is metaphor for one man's struggle to keep Nigeria one and save Nigeria. Here, I mean Abubakar Atiku (PDP). There wasn't a soul in the homeland and diaspora that did not think he won the 2019 election. His effort to claim his mandate, tested our judiciary system. In the end, his effort proved how corrupt the system is. But most painful is the silence of Nigerian University elite - lecturers, staff and students) and labor to the rape of democracy and due process. The consolation with Atiku's experience, is who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Goat 59 is not done; 2020 will surely come.

But there is hope for our dear country, Nigeria. Like goat 59, the nation proved to be a deception, a fašade. But it was not intended as such. It was a gift, though a Greek gift-like the Trojan horse! The British had good intentions when they merged four or more countries into one. It happened. Deal with it. Goat 59 is not pregnant, but blind in one eye; and with tender care, the goat will provide meat for our independence celebration in 2020. In 2021, it will be another goat, and then for the years after that, other goats. Many have said that there will soon be war in Nigeria. I ask: between whom? No, there will not be war, but rather ongoing conflict-just as there will be one goat, and then another, and then another. Will our Nigeria, in five years, be better again? Don't give up on that possibility.

I myself have not given up on Goat 59. In 2020, I predict, members of the Nigerian community in Gainesville, Florida, will enjoy the best goat pepper soup ever for their celebration of 60 years of independence.

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