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I Felt Sorry First Time I Cut A Goat 

By Azore Opio

“You know, the first time I cut the throat of a goat with a knife, perhaps the kindest way to end the life of a beast, I felt very sorry. I felt the weight of pity on my shoulders,” Johnson Chong Chia alias John Goat, told yours truly at his goat pepper soup eatery located at BBC in Kumba.

He is 31 years old. He was born and raised in Fundong in Boyo Division in the Northwest Region, where he attended Government School Fundong. “When they asked whether I wanted to continue with my education, I said I wanted to do business,” Chong said.

Chong first began performing business as an apprentice soya vendor around Commercial Avenue in Kumba, under the tutelage of a beef soya dealer, late Augustine Ngong. That was 1988. After a few years of performing the same business, he felt that his act wasn’t catching on. Chong hooked up with an Igbo goat soya seller, still as an apprentice.

“I was not cooking pepper soup; it was customers who taught me to cook pepper soup,” says Chong in a gravelly voice. “Sometimes I would take the entrails and trimmings of a goat to sell to the Igbo man and he would turn them down. So I would turn around and boil up the bones and all. That was the beginning of pepper soup. Some people would come to eat and say, ‘why don’t you add some plantains?

How about a pinch of njangsa: a drop of this flavour and a sprinkle of that spice?’ And I would add the ingredients for good effect.” Dividing his time between selling goat soya for a “patron” and selling his own pepper soup helped Chong to make up his mind. The demand for goat soya began dropping in favour of pepper soup.

Chong settled for the latter and thus, gained his new identity under the cloak of John Goat. That was 1991. Since then it has been John Goat and his pepper soup spicing Kumba all the way. John Goat’s heritage of dominating the seven counties of Kumba’s goat pepper soup kingdom at, at least, three beasts a day, gets its driving force from Fundong goats in the grass fields of the Northwest.

“I travel to Bamenda every week to purchase at least fifteen goats and load them on Amour Mezam lorry, bound for Kumba; that and a pen behind my house in Bamenda, are my sources of goats. I cull the ones I breed; when the kids mature, the mother goes to the boiling pot.”

Slaughtering three goats a day, roughly fifteen a week is enough to arouse suspicion since goat theft is the stuff of a typical day in Kumba so much that during a rare encounter with the law, John Goat found himself bailing his wife from police custody for buying a stolen goat.
“A young man duped my wife that his old man was sick, dying in hospital. And my wife swallowed the bait; hook, rope and sinker,” John Goat told your reporter.

Goats are not like dogs whose spirits might haunt one. “Goats don’t know a thing,” says John Goat, “but some are stubborn like the one I once bought from an old man. It ran away, back to their house. The old man roped it up and brought it back to me.” John Goat cannot remember how many goats he has killed since 1989.

“They can be many, eh,” John Goat interposes, “just like my customers; policemen, taxi drivers, ‘okada’ boys, businessmen, civil servants and all the like. There is one contractor, I have forgotten his name, he comes here on a daily basis. And I respect him for that.” But each time he buys goats or slaughters them, a veterinary doctor is at his corner to examine the live animals or the carcass.

“There is always a vet to check my goats for any health defects,” says, John Goat, “so I don’t deal in sick animals.” The aging and squalid ‘karraboard’ building that houses BBC and a squelchy floor, with equally feeble furniture, does not seem to bother dark-suited Vincent Osong,

“It is not often that a man can slaughter a goat for himself, so once in a while I come here to enjoy John Goat’s pepper soup.” Not only the chilly flavour of John Goat’s soup is an attraction, but its price too is appealing. Says Osong: “If I ate this goat meat at a hotel, I would pay FCFA 5,000, which I cannot afford. But with FCFA 500 or if I want to eat more and I pay FCFA 1000, everything is just cool.”

Another goat pepper soup lover who has been patronising John Goat for twenty-one years now, says forks and knives are artificial gadgets that you can’t lick properly. “I prefer my fingers. I can lick the pepperish gravy more comfortably than I can lick a knife,” says Johnson Itoe. Competition doesn’t worry John Goat because “most of them na my pikin dem. Any man wey yi di sell goat meat came under me.”

It is not only goat pepper soup that preoccupies John Goat. He has tempered temptations of passion with two wives; one in Kumba, and another holding fort in Bamenda. Both women have been generous enough to reward John Goat for his hard work. Six issues reflect the rewards for John Goat’s higher productivity, induced by matrimony.

John Goat wakes up thinking goat, goes to bed thinking goat and sleeps, dreaming goat.
“It is my business. If I see a goat, I at once begin to think how I can buy it. Once I dreamed that I had bought a big fat goat. That morning I went to the market and bought a very fat goat.”
And once you experience John Goat’s pepper soup, there is no stopping.
 

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