The Testimony of a Civilised Goat

Life was better for me when I was a goat, roaming shepherd-less in the bush, eating grass, yam peels and, once in between moons, stealing into a careless house and helping to disburden the barn of precious yam. But I thought that was diminishing, life as a goat. I wanted to walk on two legs, wear shoes, wear clothes and ride on machines. I also wanted to talk and laugh differentially, not bleating when I meant to laugh, bleating when I meant to cry, bleating when all I needed was to talk. It can be trying, life as a goat. So I clamoured for humanity. My fellow goats warned me against it; I remember they thought I was arrogant and wanted to become someone who owned goats and ate goat meat; but I knew it was jealousy. No one wanted to be born goat; no one who has courage wants to remain goat; they are cowards, I am not. I didn’t pay attention to them. I left and was born human.

I was conceived in the womb of a woman who didn’t want me. She was a student, from a family that was anything but rich. To make matters worse, my father was an abusive boyfriend who was a nightmare to my mother. And by the time she conceived me, he was a monster whose memory was a brutal reminder of her worse mistake, her disastrous past. Keeping me was something her emotions, nay sanity, couldn’t stomach. Something her time, energy and resources couldn’t accommodate. To end my career in her womb was a task that must be done. Because my mother was broke, she couldn’t afford medical surgery for this, she relied on cheap liquid solutions which her friends recommended, which had worked for her friends, which, I believe might have worked for her if I were a normal human being, but I wasn’t; I was a goat and it was my billy toughness that kept me. At the end of the first trimester my mother nearly gave up.

‘This evil child won’t go away,’ my mother announced to her friend.

‘We will do D and C,’ the friend said.

‘How do we raise the money?’

‘I don’t know. But we will; somehow.’

My mother sighed. ‘Please do this for me. I so so hate Bash. And I hate his baby.’

This broke my tiny heart. I loved my mother. I believe it is one of human frailties, to love. Love was something I didn’t know of as a goat. It is a weakness goats, wisely, don’t entertain but as a creature making its transition into humanity, I felt love, or at least, I knew it. I believe love is a byproduct of genetics. Hatred is sometime you grow to learn in the world, but love is something you are born with. Perhaps that is why humans refer to mating as lovemaking. So I loved my mother, by default, but after she said she hated me, I hated her a little. And my father, I hated most.

But I was determined to live. I wasn’t going back to being a goat so soon. I wanted to show my mother I was worthy of a complete term in her womb. I wanted to get to meet her and comfort her and make her happy. I had completed the first trial (trimester) and I was determined to see through the second one (knowing that my mother cannot get rid of me at the final trimester). So I fought hard, and began kicking the wall of the womb at just fourteen weeks old, five inches tall and weighing twelve grammes with my brains, muscles and heart still forming. I think this doesn’t make sense, not to my mother who was, in fact, primiparous; it didn’t make sense to me. The only sense was survival, my survival. So I fought and fought until my mother fell ill. I don’t know if the evil friend raised the money for the surgery to terminate me but even if she had, my mother was too ill to consider it.

By now my grandparents knew that their daughter was pregnant. They were poor but they understood life more than my mother and, for them, there was no thought for abortion. They were the Christian kind that believed children were gifts from God, even if they were fathered by Lucifer. They tried to reach my father to get him take responsibility but the devil denied involvement. He cursed them. My grandparents considered suing him in the child welfare court but they were a little afraid of him, a little wary of the stress of the inconsistencies of Nigerian legal system, a little uncertain of the verdict, a little too broke to finance the suit, a little too busy to see it to the end and, perhaps, a little unsure of the veracity of their daughter’s claim of her child’s paternity.

By a stroke of luck, the universities went on their annual ASUU strike and my last few weeks in the womb were made easier for me. My mother still cursed me in the privacy of her frustrations, but I was spared the loud vitriol of her campus tag-team and the secondary starving of me through starving herself. Her mother forced her to eat. I even enjoyed antenatal care, if you call that an enjoyment, I do.

Goodluck Jonathan was president, in the height of his popularity, when I was born, I believe that made my grandmother whose meager salary got increased by his administration, name me Goodluck. My grandfather named me Olujimi (God has compensated me); my mother called me Asedanu (an effort perpetually fruitless); my surname, Tunji. The acronym of my name is GOAT (Once a goat, forever a goat I suppose).

My mother barely breastfed me beyond twelve weeks before she dropped me with her mother and returned to school. My mother’s mother was a menial worker at the library so I was left in the care of the sea of cousins, brothers and sisters in the compound. I think they took turns to miss school to baby-sit me. A task they hated. They treated me like trash, or better than trash to say the truth; a little lower than a goat, actually; and I grew up feeding on pap, dust, tears and misery. No, it had nothing to do with growing. I think it was surviving; I was surviving and dying, swinging between the two: surviving, dying, surviving, dying…

My goal was to survive, maintain a strong hold on survival and begin to live. Sometimes I dreamed of not just living but living far from my present, this confinement in penury and lovelessness. The more I grew the less I found human life worth living. As a goat I had little parental care, now, as a human being it was far less. Life as a human being was terrible. My mother made it more terrible when she came home for holidays. It was hell when she graduated and came home to wait for her compulsory national youth service. It was at this time that I learnt to talk and my first word was ‘mama’, and my last word for a long time for my mother beat me with a small fresh stick, my size as she said, until my buttocks were red with pain and rejection.

‘He is wild,’ she said when a relation asked what my offense was. An irony because as a goat I was anything but wild, even humans testify to that hence they call us domestic animals. But by virtue of transforming into humans I have become wild, undomesticated by the same species that birthed civilization. I had come to humanity because I was tired of a life of being a goat, eating grass and bleating for basic communication. Now as a human being I was tired of life completely, I couldn’t even see grass to eat and crying was the only communication.

One day, I was five or so, still yet to begin school, my mother, whom I call Aunty, done with NYSC but mercifully jobless, came home to see that I have torn my pair of trousers, one of the two or three pairs I owned. This pair had been with me for three years now. When the journey started it was a full length trouser handed over by a generous cousin, now it was three-quarter long and would, I suspect, someday become knickers and still serve me. The pair of trousers was like second skin to my lower part and I was sorry to see it tear below the zip as I chase grasshopper, my only sport. My mother beat me so hard, this time with a stick a little above my size, that she might have killed me if I wasn’t goat-tough, perhaps she wanted me dead, and was achieving her aim when I suddenly turned into a goat. Terrified, my mother’s face twisted into an ugly bowl of flesh that I had never known she was capable of, that would have frightened the men who had found her desirable; she let go of me as though I was a monster or something dangerous other than a goat, and ran out of the compound wailing like a mad woman.

I left the house through a small opening in the zinc wall and joined my family of goats. I have trod as human but I am back to where I belong, a happy goat.

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The Man Who Looks Like a Presenter

The man who looks like a presenter, in black well-fitting suit, with a cheeky haircut and carrying a briefcase walks into the spacious tastefully-furnished barber’s shop and sits down on an isolated sofa. He places his briefcase by his side, crosses his legs, then looks up, around and nods at the occupants of the shop.

“Good morning. Pardon my haste but sometimes it is good to first find resting place for your buttocks before you raise your head up and acknowledge the gentlemen barber and co-barbees. Greetings are better late than never.”  That is what his nod seems to say and, sometimes, a nod can say so much. Two or three of the eight or nine occupants of the shop nod in return, as if to say “We understand, the bottom is supreme.”

The man who looks like a presenter uncrosses his legs and reaches for an old newspaper on the footstool before him. The man who looks like a  presenter might actually be a pastor, instructing his flock from a sleek pulpit, perhaps with a made in Nigeria American accent, with his sermon duly punctuated with God blesh you’s because if he says God bless you rather than God blesh God might not be inclined to act and God blesh you is more spiritual than God bless you, anyway.

The man who looks like a presenter might actually be a blogger, who isn’t these days? That might be his laptop or tablet in his briefcase, something he fetches out of its holster, effortlessly, like a snake on its turf, nearly every quarter of an hour to post nonsense like “Seven ways to tell if she just had sex”, “How to lose twenty pounds weight in one week” “Top secrets to win bets” etc, and spamming the whole wide world and driving humanity crazy.

Or he could be a teacher, teaching while stalking, and, most likely, making a nuisance of himself in every job portal website on earth. He might have “entrepreneur” or “self-employed” on his Facebook profile to fool some people. But a lot of people are not fooled for they know “self employed” to be a euphemism for jobless, underemployed or ill-employed and overused which jobless and underemployed and ill-employed Nigerians use to make them feel good about themselves while dying, gradually, under the tractor of earning below the minimum wage. The suit he wears might be a cover to gain him street prestige and added ears during national discourse at the roadside newspaper vendor’s.

No one pays the man who looks like a presenter further attention. Like the calmness of water few seconds after swallowing a few pebbles, the group is back to doing what they are doing before the arrival of the man who looks like a presenter. The barber continues to cut the hair of a man who is fat and frowning, perhaps, because his landlord might have given him quit notice or his girlfriend has requested iPhone 7 as present for her biannual birthday celebration this Sunday. Others read newspaper or thumb on their phones, playing Pokemon Go or some other useless game or scrolling down their timeline on Facebook in search of statuses to copy and paste on their walls devoid of an iota of creativity.

The man who looks like a presenter becomes bored with the newspaper and drops it whence he picked it up from; he recrosses his legs. The man who looks like a presenter might not be a presenter on  TV or elsewhere, nor a pastor, blogger, teacher or anything. He might be a compassionate adulterer, sleeping only with women whose husbands have abandoned, women whose husbands have failed, women whose husbands maltreat and cheat and women who are approaching breaking point and who need something dissimilar to what is inside their husbands’ trousers, to excite them and de-depress them.

He might not like doing this but he might have an enormous sense of duty to womanity which sees him making vows upon vows to discontinue these acts but breaking them at the sight of a bitter, lonely (beautiful) woman. He might not be discouraged by the presents they give him, so that when he takes a short look at his bank account he gets discouraged from seeking actual employment.

The man who looks like a presenter reaches for his briefcase and casually brings out an automatic pistol cupped with an efficient silencer. “Hey,” he calls for total attention, which is useless as everyone can smell death, before shooting at the wall mirror facing the barber. “I am an excellent shot,” he says as terror stricken eyes watch a thousand pieces of shattered glass. “I can kill each of you in less than six seconds.” Smiles. “But I won’t shoot if you behave. Kindly place your hands on your head, move to that wall and place your forehead on it, move!”

The eight or nine men obey, mechanically, like receptionists in the presence of their CEO. “Now, starting from my right, come one at a time, kneel before me and empty your pockets. I need your phones, wallets, watches, chains, necklaces, anything of value. I determine the value. If you try to hide anything from me, I’ll kill you.” As an afterthought he added, you may keep your ATM cards” said as if he is doing them tremendous favour.

The first man comes forward, kneels down and gracefully gets robbed by the man who looks like a  presenter. In less than a quarter of an hour or in a quarter of an hour exactly, the exercise comes to an end, no one is hurt. The man who looks like a presenter locks his
victims in the shop and leaves, his briefcase heavy with loot.

The man who looks like a presenter but who could actually be a pastor, a blogger, a teacher or a compassionate adulterer is, in fact, none of these. He is a gracious armed robber whose Facebook profile reads “self-employed”.

Today’s the third birthday of this blog.

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