Burukutu, a local brew in Benue State, which has been serving as a nutritional and economic product, is now being used by many in the state as an instrument of social integration and mobilization. Solomon Ayado reports.
The brew is for all, just as the method of brewing it is: very simple. Getting to know how to prepare and serve the local brew does not require a course in brewing science or special training in the art. The local and cheap beverage, which is highly appreciated by men, women, the rich and the poor, is produced across the 23 Local Government areas of the state.
Unlike the production of beer and other drinks, which require the setting up of facories in commercial areas of the state, the production of Burukutu is can be done anywhere and at any time by women, who are the major producers of the drink. The joints are also widespriead in areas where other commercial activities grow in the state.
As an unwritten rule, wherever there is a large concentration of commercial motorcyclists, cobblers and other tradesmen, many Burukutu joints will also spring up in those places. Such joints are easily identified by the presence of large number of cars and commercial motorcyclists by the roadsides.
It is not clear how the millet drink became the toast of many households and public functions but the major attraction lies in its nutritional importance, economic potential and the new-found love by youths who rely on it as a forum for social interaction and integration; While the elderly indulge in Burukutu as a means of stimulating their lives the youths sit under it to discuss many issues of contemporary importance on a daily basis.
Burukutu is largely produced by women, who comb the state and others in search of millet and Guinea corn for the production of the soft drink. The process begins with soaking the millet in water for a day or two. It is then t is dried, ground, boiled and filtered to produce the needed effect.
That is why the production process can rightly be divided into five stages: washers, who soak the millet or guinea corn in water and wash them; boilers, who continually stir the substance when it is boiling; filters, who make sure that chaff is separated from the original liquid and the servers who fetch from the bigger pots and sell to customers.
No fewer than 3,000 joints for making and selling Burukutu are spread across the state with major concentration in towns like Makurdi, the Benue state capital, Gboko, Otukpo, Katsina-Ala, Agatu, Zaki Biam among others. Thousands of consumers crowd Burukutu joints to drink and discuss freely with the notion that a problem shared is half solved.
Convinced that the patrons of the local drink are potential members of their groups, top public office holders and politicians have taken advantage of such places to sell their messages to the electorate and get major mileage over their opponents.
But the sale and consumption of Burukutu appear to have taken roots in most parts of Tivs, Idomas, Etulos and the Jukuns in Benue State, where the stuff is taken as a way of life by the natives.
One of the Burukutu joint owners in Wurukum Market Makurdi, Mama Ashi Uza, said that she started the trade in 1979, two years after losing her husband and had been using that to cater for her family. Uza said although she started as an ordinary seller for someone who owned a big shop at the Naira and Kobo Shopping Mall in Makurdi, she soon became one of the leading names in the Burukutu business in the state.
“I have used the proceeds of the trade to train three of my children as graduates and I have built five houses in the state as well,” Uza said proundly.
Jack Solo, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi now derives joy hanging around the Burukutu joints in between lectures. Solo reports to one of the joints for his breakfast before taking his first lesson.
Asked whether he drinks Burukutu, Solo Said, “I always come here when I do not have lectures but I am not drinking to get drunk or forget my lectures.
“I drink it because it is highly nutritious and it is a means of socialization. I have known a lot of people through taking Burukutu and some of them have rendered me help in so many ways,” he said.
Mallam Yusuf, popularly called Mai Taba, a father of five, who runs a grocery near one of the joints, came all the way from Kano to do his business in the area and has no regret doing so. He has made a fortune by selling cigarette near a popular Burukutu joint. I have made some money from this business and have built a house in Kano where my family is living,” he said.
While the drink has provided a source of livelihood for others, it has also given a platform for others to unwind, interact and find answers to the myriad of their challenges.
But whatever one claims to be getting from the drink remains relative to the group and may not really apply to the next group. One drink, several remedies, one would say.