There is an activity that has occupied the time of many a youth in Lagos and surrounding states.
It’s the gambling phenomenon popularly called “BÀBÁ ÌJÈBÚ”, that’s redefined lotto/lottery and jackpot, and is currently sweeping through Nigeria’s southwest region.
This pastime like religion became opium for many, has become opium for many youths, employed and unemployed, white- and blue-collar jobbers alike, artisans and non-artisans, males and females.
The popularity of this numbers-game can be gauged in the number of the sheds and kiosks where the game is played in almost every neighborhood in Lagos and Ogun States and other southwestern Nigerian states.
Many artisans have left off their trades to become vendors for the promoters of this game, while others still practicing their trades or under the employ of private entrepreneurs or public/government institutions or establishments have committed part of their time to partake in this game.
There’d always been number-games in Nigeria before the BÀBÁ ÌJÈBÚ phenomenon, but none has captured the imagination of the lower and middle classes as this. “Pooling”, “Lotteries”, even the recent rise in “Sport Betting” has nothing on the popularity of “Baba ìjèbú”.
The addiction amongst many of Nigeria’s southwestern youths is second to none, and more disciples are drawn to it by the minute. Some of the tales associated with the game vary from the plausible to the ridiculous. Infact, many a madmen and women have earned daily wages from ardent players by making predictions of winning numbers that in recent times, they’ve even played on the intelligence of the players just to ensure for themselves means of livelihoods. Having discovered that most of the mad people may be playing them, the players have also devised criteria to determine genuine lucky-number-spinning ones among them; some of the craziest criteria you will ever come across, that will make you question the sanity of the players themselves.
I was so moved by the way players paid attention religiously to the numbers, studying the sequences and frequencies that I decided to try my hands at it. After watching an acquaintance of mine play to win severally, I asked for his assistance as guide, unfortunately the numbers he picked for me, based on some ridiculous reasons, as well as those I randomly picked yielded no luck in terms of winnings. I stopped after a few games, not necessarily because I thought I’d really hit it big there but just because I wanted to experience this phenomenon that was turning so many lives around, unfortunately in most cases for the worst. My friend also stopped playing as he found that he’d lost almost all he won, investing the bit that was left into a bicycle to ease his movement within town after that Lagos State government’s unpopular ban on motorcycles/ mopeds known by the locals as “Okada”.
Sadly, not many Lagosians under the influence of the allure of the game have found it easy to quit like my friend did. Many have lost their means of livelihood, special relationships and much more in their bid to repeat a former win (which has suddenly become elusive) or that huge winning that will assure them the huge break of their lives, yet continues to drain them financially and otherwise with each “napping”.
It is even more disheartening to note that unlike in the past when “Pooling”, betting and lotteries were associated with old men and pensioners, this scourge has infected mainly the young of our society in the bid to “Get Rich or Die Trying”, as quickly as possible without much or any exertion. They may think of it as a pastime but this isn’t positive pastime. The proliferation of BÀBÁ ÌJÈBÚ kiosks allover Lagos and the southwest of Nigeria suggests that their activities may even have government backing which is very sad to fathom.
Gambling may not be illegal but the proliferation of it is what I am not comfortable with. This isn’t what we should be encouraging youths to do. Not if we want the kind of society we see in our dreams, the kind of society that respects the dignity of labour and hardwork, and rewards same.