A Socio- Economic History of Alcohol in Southeastern Nigeria Since 1890.

Alcoholic beverages have been important in the socio-economic development of the people of southeastern Nigeria since the pre -colonial period. Alcohol was used in various occasions like marriages, oath taking, festivals; naming ceremonies etc. This study examines the social and economic impact of alcohol on the people of southeastern Nigeria since 1890. The work argues that palm wine was the most prominent and dominant brand of alcohol known to the people of southeastern Nigeria prior to the advent of Europeans at the coast. Other alcoholic drinks of the pre-colonial era like gin and spirituous liquor were products associated with activities such as the slave trade and other forms of interactions with the Europeans. The advent of colonialism changed the role of palm wine in various rituals and cultural activities. It is argued that the colonial period saw to the heavy importation of liquor into the southern Nigeria which encouraged heavy drinking and made the people of southeastern Nigeria dependent on foreign brands of alcoholic drink. This altered the people’s drinking habits and control which existed in the pre-colonial era. As people became used to imported alcoholic beverages and with the increase in price of spirituous liquor and gin, the people of southeastern Nigeria resorted to the distillation of local gin known also as kai-kai or ogogoro in order to sustain the tempo of drinking gin already created by the European contact with them .The invention of local gin was opposed by the colonial authorities who described it as unhealthy because of its negative impact on colonial revenue. As part of its substitution policy, the colonial government ultimately encouraged the domestication of modern alcohol production which included distilleries and breweries with the Nigerian Breweries which started construction in 1946 and began production in 1949. The development of modern breweries in Nigeria with the Nigerian Breweries PLC revolutionized the sector as beer became the drink of the highly placed as well as one of the signs of modernity. Subsequently, other breweries such as Guinness and Eastern Breweries joined the group thus de monopolizing the sector. By the 1970s, the brewing sector in Nigeria continued to expand and contributed immensely to the Nigerian economy providing revenue for the government as well as employment for the people. A remarkable development during the colonial period was that, unlike the pre colonial era, drinking by females became more pronounced as urbanisation provided space for drinking irrespective of gender and traditional regulation processes became largely irrelevant. Much of the existing literature on alcohol in our area of study has focused almost entirely on the importation as well as prohibition of indigenous liquor manufacturing during the colonial period as contested terrain of the economy. But the socio-economic impact of alcohol has generally remained unexplored and this is the focus of this study. Using archival and oral sources as well as secondary materials, the study demonstrates that alcohol, had important socio-economic impact on the people of southeastern Nigeria since the pre-colonial period. Given these developments, we propose that there should be national alcohol policy in Nigeria to determine who is to drink, as well as where and when to drink.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos.
Alcohol , Socio-eEonomic Development , Pre-Colonial , Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::History and philosophy subjects::History subjects::History
Okonkwo, U.U (2014), A Socio- Economic History of Alcohol in Southeastern Nigeria Since 1890. A Thesis Submitted to University of Lagos School of Postgraduate Studies Phd Thesis and Dissertation, 264pp.