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Monday, May 20, 2024

Of Breweries, Priests And The State – By Kenneth Tersoo Gyado



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Benue state where I proudly hail from can easily be described as one of the most politically conscious, socially vibrant and intellectually potent states in Nigeria. It is never short of mellow drama as every event and activity is deliberately interpreted to suit political mindsets.

In my state, when you find yourself in conflict with some entrenched interests, every thing you do is WRONG. You can be accused of stirring up dust even when you are in a pool of water. When you build roads, the chorus will be “ na roads we go chop?”. When you construct flyovers and under passes, the story will be “ this is unnecessary infrastructure “. When you provide buses to ease the mass transit burdens, the response is that “ the buses are refurbished”. Most strange is the sudden realization that payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions are not achievements worth celebrating . This is coming against a background of refusal to pay same for years without end.

I understand the frustration of those whose only industry is politics. These people become like rain beaten chickens when political tensions are low as this keeps them out of job. To them, they only find their voices when they stir up conflicts between political leaders. They now become fully employed by feeding leaders with toxic stories to deepen any rift. They become masters at enumerating those in “our “camp and those in the “other” camp. To them, there are no boundaries between mere politicking and statecraft .

Recently, I read comments from former allies turned sudden critics of Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia over plans by the Benue Investment and Property Development Company (BIPC) to establish a brewery. One of them even questioned why a “ man of God” should prioritize the establishment of a brewery. I sympathize with this level of ignorance and mental laziness. A simple Google search will inform him that some of the best wines in the world are products of monasteries superintended by Monks. Monasteries have  traditionally played an important role in the production of wine and oil, as both were used for rituals and religious rites. Still today in Europe, many monasteries continue to produce wine, becoming an important source of funding.

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One of the world’s most prestigious wines and ultimate status symbol called Dom Perignon is named after a Benedictine Monk who is credited with the invention of champagne . His famous quote “ come quickly I am tasting stars” has become a legendary saying among coinnasuers  and sommeliers .

Wine making is entrenched in church history and culture and cannot be wished away by the subjective ignorance of some unschooled people. The famous wine Chatenuef du Pape has a direct link with papal authority . According to Wikipedia , Châteauneuf-du-Pape literally translates to “The Pope’s new castle” and, indeed, the history of this appellation is firmly entwined with papal history. In 1309, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy to the town of Avignon. Clement V and subsequent “Avignon Popes” were said to be great lovers of Burgundy wines and did much to promote them during the 70-year Avignon Papacy.

Those opposed to this project cannot impose a burden of guilt on the Reverend Gentleman because even Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith in his first miracle turned water into wine. In one of his last acts, he gave us wine as the symbol of his blood asking us to “ do this in memory of me”.

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The glory days of Benue under the magnificent Aper Aku were capped with the establishment of Benue Breweries Ltd. Even then, opponents derisively described More beer  as “ Aku’s urine”. They drank it all the same.

In Aku, Fr Alia has found a role model in the conception of enduring legacies. Benue State is one of the biggest producers of high quality sorghum in Nigeria and therefore creating an industry that will absorb the product from farmers and generating employment in the process isn’t a bad idea. It is a win win for the farmers and the youths of the state.

The BIPC is the investment arm of the State and must be shielded from the shenanigans of venture politicians who only believe in “ bring all to the table” model of governance. Constructive criticism is welcome but downplaying achievements is another form of witchcraft. If you hate the roads, don’t ply them. If you hate the beer don’t drink it. If you despise the underpasses , don’t use them. If you think the salaries and pensions are no achievements, tell your kit and kin to reject them. If you don’t like the rejuvenated Teaching Hospital don’t take your people there. The new Benue belongs to forward thinking people. My state shall be great again.

Kenneth Tersoo Gyado


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