The scene that sparked the row is as stated; an old man fell down and the young man whose leg was the obstacle was fined a goat to assuage old age. In other words, a goat must die for a man’s carelessness.
In another compound, John wanted to marry Anna and they said her father must by tradition have a goat. The family too needs a goat. But never had her parents for the love of a goat ever reared one. Now suddenly they seek a goat, not just any, but a big goat preferably, a well perfumed native goat. It could have been said that their demand is out of love for goats but no, a goat is about to die again.
Suddenly, other goats watching the incidents took offence. Like an act in self-defence and in unison, they turned to attack all the men present at the venue. The sudden revolt or survival instinct surprised the men who ran for their lives. But a he-goat, his wisdom displayed in a white goatee prevailed on the others to rather seek sympathy and take the matter to court. All agreed to flash their white teeth at a herbalist who was on his way home from the community’s shrine of sacrifice. He perceived this as an omen when his cowries dropped and arranged themselves curiously. Thus, he voluntarily became their counsel. And here we are in court: Goats versus humanity.
Goats are suing for legal redress against humanity for unwarranted killings of their numbers ―rather than their kind for offences they did not commit, and are seeking an injunction against further acts of wanton killing and above all, an unreserved apology.
The goats claim that all these disrespect have psychologically affected the goat race, such that it has lost respect among fellow animals. The three-count charge is as stated:
1. Humanity had maintained a systematic elimination of the goat race even though unprovoked.
2. There is an unjustified bias against goats in the midst of sheep and ram and other domestic animals equally suitable for men’s dining table.
3. Humanity had no bases for unwarranted abuse of ‘stupidity’ of the goat race saying “as stupid as a goat.”
Humanity is represented by a local chief while the judge is a traditional ruler who himself had partaken in fining others and sharing in the goat fines. The goats, ably represented by the herbalist (counsel for prosecution) addressed the court thus: (interpreting after the chief goat had spoken)
“My lord, I wonder who wrote the tradition of a goat’s life for a man’s smile. The hens share this same fate but goats are no relations to accept it as retribution. Had Pa-goat; our grandfather in times past done something awful? I searched all human folklore and carnivorous table menu, early table habits and traditions but found no answer. Even in communities without grasses, goats are imported. This makes goats to suffer humiliation; expressed through their eating raw fish as a change of diet from grass or yam tubers. Goats sometimes go to the river edge to do the fishing themselves if stealing fish at the market place become difficult. What a life!”
On the second count charge, the herbalist then said; “Goats cannot also be said to be destructive to the human conveniences like dogs which bite, rats which destroy property. For rat lovers, the cat is the offender that kills their rats. A goat is law-abiding. Why then is it always in the soup pot?”
“On the third count, again people say “as stupid as a goat.” What makes a big goat to be called stupid? Is it because a goat will not bite when provoked? Attempt provoking a small dog or cat and see what I mean. But a big goat would only run away. Is that silly? I think it is a case of loving peace and not stupidity. Or is it because goats try to make love even to their mothers? This is not stupid, it is only a tradition. How about mothers who eat their young ones? Or fathers who kill theirs; like the lion?”
“In truth, the wisdom of the tortoise or the stupidity of the goat should be limited to folklore where no harm is intended. Stupidity in folklore is propagated to sooth a passive nature of life readily provided by the goat. 'Stupidity' therefore is not abuse but a mirror of a life situation that refers to humanity itself.”
“When you drive a dog away from faeces and he readily goes back, or a vulture from the offal remains on the road path or a beaten goat having recourse to revisiting a source of food; this is not necessarily an act of stubbornness otherwise christened stupidity. It is rather a case of no alternative to the cherished action.”
The herbalist continued: “On the grounds that goats are stupid and humans desire to erase stupidity around itself, then it is justified. But what qualifies a goat to be called stupid?”
In humanity’s defence, counsel, the local chief pleaded not guilty.
On the first count charge, he said “the biblical injunction ‘thou shall not kill’ does not apply to animals but to humans. Human tradition is what makes humanity. This, therefore, cannot be tampered with” he concluded.
His response to the second count charge was: “goats are preferred to many chickens because killing a goat is one-time labour but six hens involve decapitating six heads and six lives and six feathers for plucking. Again, goats are preferred because the meat is agreeable; and also preferred because its meat size can go round among the traditional judges of cases as well as the complainants.”
In cross-examination, the herbalist continued: “but there are other domestic animals humanity spares. As a fine; does a hen, a turkey or a guinea fowl appear too small? A cat or rat might bite, but they are not much bigger than the fowls ― then how about the dog or the horse? The horse is rare maybe, but not the dog. They spare it maybe because they are afraid of it like the wild antelope that cannot be readily produced as a fine for an offence just like squirrels, grass-cutters, porcupines, monkeys, rabbits and even snakes.”
The local chief replied: “A goat is not too small and not too big as the horse or the cow. Hence it is affordable as a punishment for an offence because it is a generally honoured animal. A goat makes its case worse when it is the only animal that affords a smile through exposing all its teeth to encourage man to love it. I think that is stupid.”
The herbalist interjected, “Objection my lord.” The judge upheld the objection saying the council should not make ridiculing statements. As there were no witnesses for the case except one clergy on the side of the herbalist, he took the stand and spoke thus:
He continued: “Why not use rams or sheep? After all, we are the same size. If it is a matter of religion, Abraham used a ram (Gen. 22:13) and not a goat. Besides, goats are not more populous than other animals or pose an ecological threat. Again he continued: “King Solomon’s sacrifice (1kings. 8: 5, 2 Chronicle 5:6) sheep and oxen could not be told nor numbered for multitude; no goat was involved.”
The local chief replied: “Goats are our traditional legal tender. It is having a tradition and culture that spices humanity. A goat is the most acceptable means of exchange. Therefore, it is an honour to be so chosen. Just as it is an honour for a fowl to see its feathers adorn the head of humanity, a goat’s contribution in taste is also an honour.”
“The goat suffers no loss even in death as all its parts including its head are delicacies. If the elephant had complained that for only its tusk humanity waste its whole flesh, it would have been a good case.”
In response to this, the judge asked thus: “For an honour, is any sacrifice too much, even death? I let the jury decide.”
After two days of deliberation, their verdict was “No.”
Then the judge gave his ruling: “As recommended by the jury, case dismissed. Humanity is discharged and acquitted on all counts.”
Then the counsel for the goat was addressed further:
“The goats as stated earlier have a tradition of showing their teeth and this we do not wish to query. If we respect their tradition then for reciprocity, we demand the same. A goat is an icon of African tradition; hence I’ll award costs of goats to the defendant. Most preferably, ‘a native goat,’ that retains the goat’s traditional natural perfume in body scent. This is required because only a freeborn goat can assuage the ridicule and embarrassment this suit has brought unto the human race in the full view of all other domestic animals.
So at the end of the case, yet another goat was to die for the herbalist's services to the goats, and yet another was to die for the traditional judge and his able chiefs in counsel― the equivalent of a jury.