Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

National Concord, Nigeria

The beer toll

Armed with 30 approved and licensed breweries and 22 more yet to be licensed, Nigeria's producers of beer can claim to have made a phenomenal rise since 1949 when the first of these alcoholic plants began production in the country. And on the positive side, they can claim to have offered significant employment opportunities to Nigerians, aided the economy through payments of Customs and Excise duties and other taxes. The catalogue of the goodies which they claim to provide is endless.

Yet a bottle of beer for all its worth is not less than 90 per cent plain water in content. The remaining percentage constitutes what the brewers have chosen to style essential RAW MATERIALS - barley, malt, sorghum, yeast etc. It is one of the paradoxes of Nigeria's development in this area that the industry has failed since 1949 to develop significant local substitutes to meet their production needs. Instead, the country's battered economy had had to bend over backwards every year to meet the industry's demand for foreign exchange and assuage the industry's heavy lobby RAW MATERIALS. And what is more, the beer industry has succeeded in offering itself to governments all over the Federation as an attractive goldmine. Which is why many state governments have themselves gone into the venture with public funds and turned it into a priority industry.

However, it is remarkable that while government spokesmen have repeatedly preached against drunkenness and drug abuse (another form of addiction) government has itself never seriously taken steps to discourage the growth in the alcohol industry. The social costs in increased public consumption of alcohol are many. They include ill-health of all sorts as a result of beer consumption, injuries and death as a result of alcohol-induced accidents, and of course, a consequent loss in industrial production. These harmful side products of the industry are hardly ever mentioned by the beer lobbyists.

And what is more, sponsored opinions have been heard to say that beer, as we have it in Nigeria, is highly nutritive and beneficial to the social well being. The laws of the land even permit its usage by any individual who feels so inclined.

These cleverly put opinions however always fail to point out the exemplary lots of the Australian Aborigines, the American Indians and Blacks, who over the years have been deliberately lulled away from growth and progress through race inspired addictions to alcohol and drugs. Or the deliberate attempts being made by European governments (sponsors of many of our foreign partners in this business) to discourage the consumption of alcohol by their populace.

What we are saying is that it behoves the military government to discourage not only the production of alcohol but also its large-scale consumption by the country's populace. It will be ridiculous to wage the War Against Indiscipline while permitting an unabated promotion of alcohol consumption. The two cannot go together because the one promotes what the war is all against.

Besides, it would do the country a lot more good to direct all future investments into the establishment of new beer factories, into the production of portable drinking water of the populace.

And for goodness sake, no tax payers' money ought to be spent anymore on providing alcoholic drinks to anyone at government functions. Anyone who wants to drink should do so with his or her own money.

National Concord, Nigeria

The fourth phase of WAI

The launching recently, of the fourth phase of the Federal Military Government's War Against Indiscipline (WAI), marks yet another milestone in the nationwide campaign against public misconduct and disorder. For this phase of the campaign, the government's loaded cannons are aimed at the twin scourges of economic sabotage and corruption. And bearing in mind that these two evils had significantly contributed to the nation's progressive ruination ever since independence, one cannot but commend the Buhari administration's determination to rid the country of them.

Even so, from the much that is perceivable so far, the newly-launched phase of WAI, like the three precedent phases, is being waged only on an esoteric plane. In spite of the often repeated radio jingles and the high-sounding declarations of WAI launchers around the country, the campaign still suffers from an acute deficiency of intellectual input. But the nation's social malaise is so very deep-rooted, and the average Nigerian's attitude to life so outrageously bizarre that battling these evils merely with sweet sermons, stern orders and jingles amounts to no more than scratching vainly on the surface of the problems.

The government's approach to the conduct of the campaign thus far, as some observers have noted, may well be a carry-over of the barracks style of discipline. But Nigeria is not just one vast military barracks. As such, any serious attempt at halting the socio-moral anarchy to which this country has degenerated must be something at once more fundamental and intellectual than strong orders and sweet jingles.

If corruption and economic sabotage are ever to be curbed, the society's entire ethical foundations must be seriously re-examined and then totally overhauled. The breathless hankering after speedy accumulation of wealth; the vulgar and offensive exhibitionism of the nouveau riche, the unwholesome implications of tolerating so-called "African hospitality" in public offices; the mind boggling non-correlation between labour and reward; the chronic inefficiency of our public utilities and bureaucracies; all these and more need to be undertaken for their contributions to corruption and economic sabotage.

Towards any meaningful analysis of these problems and mass communications of their solutions, the government necessarily needs to enlist the services of knowledgeable persons from different parts of the country. Luckily, ours is not a nation lacking in the calibre of thinkers and analysts called for by this exercise. Rather than persist in its present inclination to go it alone, the military government will only be adding a necessary boost to the WAI effort by tapping the talents of such Nigerians.

talking drums 1985-02-11 open letter to rawlings