Breaking Benue’s Vicious Cycle of Alcoholism

By Usha Anenga
Drinking burukutu
Someone had to write about this, right? I have chosen to do so, not because I have never tasted alcohol but to enlighten us especially the youths on the need to exercise caution. Some generation, will have to draw the line and I’m hoping it’s ours…

A week ago, a close friend of mine, well known for his alcohol consumption, narrated his ordeal to me. One day, after returning home from a night-out drinking as usual, he started feeling some pain in his loins but didn’t think it was anything to bother about and went to bed. The next day, in the afternoon, he realised he hadn’t urinated all day unlike him, so he decided to try. Nothing could prepare him for what he saw when something came out after several attempts; blooooooood, frank red blood. I could feel the fear in his eyes and in every word he spoke, even though this happened months ago and he had fully recovered. Being a medical doctor, he knew it could have been worse, in fact he had seen similar cases progress to end-stage renal failure and death. “That is why I will never take beer again” he concluded, and rightly so, at a wake several weeks later, whilst others soaked themselves in alcohol, my friend remained true to his words, he was relaxing, not with alcohol, this time with some soft drink.

Not everyone will experience this, but many may not be so lucky. If you ever live in Benue state, you would have noticed this pathognomonic scene; A sea of impoverished-looking infrastructure with pockets of distinctively new buildings – beer parlours and some open fields which are all converted to alcohol drinking joints at night. No other business thrives like that of the green bottle here. Of the dozens of Benue’s moribund companies and industries, only Benue brewery (and Benue Cement Company) have attracted significant investment and is still viable. Under the management of Consolidated Breweries Plc, they have improved both in production and distribution. A visit to the facility located along Gboko road and you’ll realised these guys are serious.
During an excursion, I observed carefully and noticed that about four bottles of beer was produced every second by heavy automated machines, leading to the production of tens of thousands of crates of assorted beverages (too many “of” huh? Please, pardon my diction). This translates into an endless supply of alcohol, such that even people who go out penniless come back home drunk. I don’t know how that works.

The high supply of alcohol in Benue stems from the demand of the people, we drink a lot. The youths especially, who are bent on matching the breweries bottle for bottle. I know alcoholism (excessive alcohol consumption) is a universal problem and some even argue that alcohol is good for the heart, but we in Benue State have idolised it and made it necessary for life. It’s not the worst social ill and I hope I’m not perceived as being judgemental, but with a very high – output brewery right at our backyard and for the way going about it, definitely, someone would need to cut down.

Some years back, the government legislated a ban on local spirit “ogogoro”, it worked on paper but in reality remains the cheapest and fastest selling alcoholic brand. That clearly hasn’t helped. Life is already short, in Nigeria, we are generally not expected to exceed an average 47 years, the last thing one would want to do is make it even shorter through alcoholism. Alcohol is a proven culprit for several diseases; hypertension, diabetes, mental illnesses and several heart diseases to mention but a few. Alcohol has also been implicated in road traffic accidents, domestic accidents and violence, not forgetting how much money goes into this habit. As a young person, why risk your health now and in the future; the future wherein you are expected to be the leader, if the saying “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” is anything to go by.

It’s so bad that if there was any area of a young man’s life that needed moderation, it should be alcohol consumption. So how much alcohol is ok? Just as we have different types of alcoholic drinks, so are our bodies. Your height, weight and gender are just some of the factors that play a part in how alcohol affects you. Even what you’ve had to eat that day or how much sleep you’ve had recently can make a difference to how you feel when you drink. Generally 3-4 units (about 25mls of spirit, one bottle of larger beer or two glasses of wine) per day and a little less for females is advised but recommended quantities for locally made beverages such as burukutu are still undetermined. Inasmuch as these guidelines are helpful, it is not easy to moderate intake especially when you are out with friends and just because you’re not always out ‘getting drunk’ doesn’t mean you’re drinking at safe levels, so it’s a lot more complicated.

Since legislation has failed and breweries want to do business, the only was out is through temperance and discipline. Moreso that the challenging times in the country require our youths to be mentally “together” to make correct judgement and meaningful contribution to the society. When the only time youths have with political leaders is spent indulging in liquor, how can we communicate our real concerns to them? How can we carry out leadership tomorrow when we sacrifice tomorrow’s opportunities for today’s transient enjoyment?
Take a decision now. It’s not going to be easy, you may even lose some friends but it’s better now than later and trust me, it’ll be worthwhile.

Usha Anenga is a Medic, Husband, Dad and Concerned Nigeria. He writes from Makurdi and tweets @UAnenga

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1 Comment

  1. Ejiga

    October 15, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    These is indeed a stitch in time, I’m very proud of these writer and the write up. Like its being noted, judgement is not the goal, but a fair warning and a word of advise. Keep this up

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