Mr. Jones of the Eagle Farm had received a fresh batch of Indian shrimps just delivered to him by his personal assistant. He bid his staff goodnight and went to bed with three of the shrimps. He had taken more than enough orange juice, and his steps were staggering. In his master bedroom, he walked into the in-built bathroom, opened the medicine cabin, picked up a sack, popped some blue pills into his mouth and swallowed without water. He walked to his bed, where the three shrimps he planned to have for the night lay. Quietly, he sat down at the edge of the bed. What happened next, nobody knows till this day.
Before daybreak, words had spread out that Mr. Jones had given up the ghost. His relatives, most of whom were from the pig family, quickly came together and selected Mr. Roundup to take over the affairs of the farm. It was a desperate time in Eagle Farm. Mr. Roundup freed the animals still alive in Mr. Jones’ locked-up pen. Amongst those released was Napoleon, the rabbit. Napoleon survived the locked-up pen quite unlike the rich pig named Unforgiving, who died.
Once out of the pen, Napoleon returned to his little garden down the West End of Eagle Farm. He needed to rest. That was what everyone thought. His knees had become weak, and his elbow crushed more than once. Then Moneybag, another of Mr. Jones’ locked up died while they were still negotiating his release. Animal Farm became tenser. Everywhere, animals were singing the song Beast of No nation that Old Major had taught them.
We gonna chase those crazy baldheads out of the town.
Chase those crazy baldheads out of the town.
For I and I plant the garden
For I and I weed the corn
It’s my people before me
Who pledged for this country?
Now you look me weed the corn
And you eat up all my corn…
We gonna chase those crazy
Chase them crazy
Chase those crazy baldheads out of the town.”
But then, Diego visited Napoleon.
Diego used to run the farm. He used to be like Mr. Jones. In fact, he once had Mr. Jones assisting him. That was how the farm ran until the Battle of June 12th. The battle came about when Diego asked all the animals on the farm to choose who would run the farm. In the election, Diego’s candidate lost to Moneybag. Diego was surprised that the pigs, the goats, the rabbits, the cats, the squirrels, and other animals could come together and vote for Moneybag. He annulled the result and began a tug of war with rabbits, pigs, squirrels, and tortoises who wanted to see Moneybag installed as the farm manager. When the tug of war became too tough, Diego stepped down and handed the farm over to a rabbit who did not come from Moneybag’s camp. Almost immediately, Mr. Jones gathered his relatives who had the privilege of keeping the farm’s machetes and arrows. Together, they chased the weak rabbit away and took control of the farm.
It was a very dark era on the farm. Mr. Jones was not just like other pigs before him. He was a wild one. He flaunted the pig’s code of conduct and ordered the killing and imprisonment of other animals. With his short and ugly nose, he could push his way into anything. The animals’ hay store was like his personal hay store. He could send his dogs in at any time and walk away with as many hays as he wished. The animals understood how dangerous Mr. Jones was when he killed the little tortoise named Basi. Basi was a writer, and he fought for the tortoise family who had to live in hardship because the fertilizer factory had taken over their pen.
And so it happened that Diego, gap-toothed pig, visited Napoleon and convinced him to run for the post of Farm Manager. He did not just talk; he showed Napoleon the hays, tempting him. Napoleon quickly forgot that he did not forget anything at the Farm Manager’s office, for he used to be a manager long ago. Convinced that the pigs were behind him, Napoleon threw his hat into the ring. He crashed into the union formed by a squirrel called Snowball. Napoleon began to fight for the right to run the farm under the auspices of the Snowball union. In a face-off in the Jos section of the farm, Napoleon won the fight against Snowball. He went into a February battle with another Union led by another rabbit and emerged victoriously. In May of 1999, he assumed the Eagle Farm.
Immediately, Napoleon began to rewrite the laws. He made the seven commandments:
1.) Whatever supports itself with a gun is an enemy.
2.) Whatever wins over others with an empty hand is a friend.
3.) No animal shall steal food anymore.
4.) No animal shall pee on another animal.
5.) No animal shall bathe in other’s drinking water.
6.) No animal shall kill other animals.
7.) All animals are equal.
There was happiness as well as apprehension in Animal Farm. His fellow rabbits did not support Napoleon. He was discovered and adopted by the pigs and supported by the squirrels, amongst others. He began his delicate balancing act. Napoleon distrusted the pigs, so he tried to win the affection of his fellow rabbits. To them, he gave what remained of the plum cabinet position in Eagle Farm. The squirrel family cried out, saying, “Wolf, wolf, wolf. We have once again been left out of the barn.” Next, Napoleon sent home all the dogs that had been hanging around the courtyard for so long. Those who had eaten too many fat bones. And that was how the crisis in the Eagle Farm began.
The tortoises set the fertilizer factory on fire. The rabbits began to fight the tortoises. The pigs began to fight the rabbits. The squirrels began to fight each other. Napoleon sent Jessie, the leader of his attack dogs, to a small fertilizer factory and crushed the gang of tortoises who had taken it over. Napoleon said that the fertilizer flow to every part of Eagle Farm could not be compromised. And in the irrigated part of the farm rose a radical pig called Mussolini that would like to cut off the tails of pigs that drank pasteurized milk. He would want to slice up the ear of any pig who gives an illicit look at the pretty pig.
Despite Napoleon’s show of force at the tortoise’s pen, it did not stop the agitation. Several gardens within the farm saw a rise in complaints. One day, in the land of the donkeys, the pigs fought the squirrel, the tortoises, and all those who did not agree to the new code of conduct of the pigs. Besides the Farm pond, the squirrels fought back, killing the pigs. It was chaos everywhere. Once again, some disciples of the Old Major began to talk louder about having a general meeting of all the animals on the farm so that an agreement could be reached on how to govern the farm. An idea Napoleon called irresponsible. One of the pigs called it “fascist and anti-democratic,” and its advocates “parrots with a slave mentality.”
The donkeys led by Benjamin were also unhappy. They wanted to separate from the pigs. It wasn’t any better at the National Assembly of the Animal Kingdom. Bickering and in-fighting were the order of the day. There were animals of various kinds but no order, no opposition. Not even Napoleon’s Union, who were the majority, was united. Napoleon would say one thing; the Assembly would say another. One day, the Old Major returned from the foreign land he ran to when Mr. Jones was after him. The next moment, Squealer reappeared. He had helped Diego stop Moneybag from taking over Animal Farm. He once campaigned for Mr. Jones to manage the farm forever. One morning, Squealer emerged from his pen, waging his tail, and announced to the world that Napoleon must be kicked out.
It began a new battle in Animal Farm– finding who owned Napoleon? Who owned the Animals’ democracy that brought about Napoleon? Animals kept lining up on the street shouting on top of their voices, “I will work hard. Napoleon is always right.” It was strange because some of these Animals never supported Napoleon. The questions asked were many. Was it because of Squealer? Was Napoleon loaned to Animal Farm? For how long? By whom? What if the rabbits recall Napoleon? And what do animals mean when they say that the Animal Farm would burn if anything happens to Napoleon? Then there was Muriel, the blue donkey who is going about saying to Animals that Napoleon is the one to come and those looking for another are just enemies of animal democracy. To all these, Napoleon said, “I dey Kampe!”
But on the wall where they posted the Ten Commandments, someone made a change on the seventh. Now it read, All Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
To that, the Animals on the collar all chorused, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef”, “Children of a Retired God,” among others.