Premier Lotto Limited, popularly known as Baba Ijebu has succeeded in luring virtually every Nigerian, from young to old to its shabby looking casinos/dens without using any persuasive communication.
Many Nigerians think that because it doesn't’t involve drugs or alcohol that gambling addiction is somehow less harmful that the other.
While this is untrue, Pulse went on a journey to these dens to discover, report the dangers, social and security risk these 'Baba Ijebu' shops poses to unemployed youths and the society at large.
Kehinde (not real names) is a gambling addict, while compiling and writing this report, I have seen him and studied him times without number at different Baba Ijebu gambling dens especially the one at Fagbile Mushin.
The first time I met him, he approached me saying he had a vision for today’s winning number and all I had to do was pay 100 naira.
“O sure Alhaja, elehi o shey fake” (This is the correct stuff,, it is not fake), and I looked on as he rants about 2 sure, National, Enugu and other gambling slangs the Baba Ijebu is known for.
Every single day, countless hustling Nigerians sink millions of Naira into this bustling industry, there is at least one Baba Ijebu kiosk usually painted blue in every street in Lagos, where people forecast or predict winning numbers.
The gambling castle is usually a sight to behold as every street has played host to this scourge rampant on our streets. The question left unanswered now is are Baba Ijebu gambling dens legal? What are the risk they pose to our society? What are the effects of the gambling dens on the economy and also on individuals? Drawing more attention to what allowing or establishing more baba ijebu gambling dens could mean for millions of gambling addicts like Kehinde.
Baba Ijebu" also known as Premier Lotto Limited (PLL) is a Gambling/Gaming Company which was founded by Chief Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu in 2001 to carry out the Lotto business in Nigeria, since its establishment millions of Lagosians patronize the business daily. This, to any business, is a huge success. And Baba Ijebu has succeeded without any form of public relations or advertising of the brand to persuade its target audience to patronize the business.
When he was retrenched while working in a bank, Kehinde was looking for an alternative source of income to distract himself and keep himself busy when he stumbled across a baba ijebu gambling den, offering an escape from all his troubles. Kehinde had once been a gambler when he was in school and he had even done the sports betting with his friends. But when he finished from university, he dropped the habit and moved on.
But that day, the enticements from Baba Ijebu seemed irresistible and Kehinde started placing bets once again. He started small, betting fifty naira or hundred naira at a time on too sure and National. The stakes grew over the next several months until he was placing five thousand naira on each bet. Soon, he didn’t have money to fuel his habit, so he borrowed from his friends, his former co-workers, his family so that he could continue to sustain his gambling habits.
When he finally got a job as a bursar in a private school, he began to gamble with the school money, although he was lucky as most of the time he won but he still lost and he was sacked and arrested. His wife and family had to start looking for how to raise close to 60 thousand that he stole from the school.
The story of Kehinde is not unusual, since the establishment of Baba Ijebu, Lagosians especially have become addicted to gambling and the youth have not been spared as not too far from the Ilupeju Grammar School in Oshodi is a Baba Ijebu stall where students are seen after school hours gambling away their lunch money or a stolen money at the gambling den.
However, in other to properly get the answers to my questions I had to visit some of these gambing dens to interview gamblers. And off I went posing like an interested and inexperienced gambler, I met Dare at the gambling den in Oshodi near the Ilupeju Grammar School, when I asked why he gambled he said there is always a chance you can win, there is always a tiny chance you can hit it big “I know it is wrong to gamble but once you start playing, you can’t stop because it is addictive.”
Another Gambler, who is just 17 years old gave his name as Azeez said his mother used to gamble at their shop in Mushin which is very close to the gambling dens and I can gamble from 10am and stay there till night depending on how lucky I am. Sometimes I just wait for the results there. When he was asked if his mother knew he was gambling, he retorted yes of course, she gambles too.
Walking into this section of the society is dangerous but I was fortunate to see one of the managers of a gambling den popularly known as K Pumping whose real names are Olajide Kayode after offering me a drink of pakurumo jokingly, he told me so many things including the fact that baba ijebu has helped bridge the gap between the poor and the rich.
He said: “The gambling dens are okay in its own form, it has benefitted so many people and the gains derived from playing Baba Ijebu can’t be measured. I know so many people that have benefited immensely from it.”
However, when I asked him about its addictiveness he broke into a terrible laughter and said “Of course it is, that is why people keep coming despite the fact that they have lost countless times."
When I asked him if Baba Ijebu should be censored, he said it should be allowed to exist uncensored because it has helped the ordinary man a lot to achieve his needs.
When I asked him to tell me some of the games, he reeled them all out like 2Sure, T direct, Permutation, National, Midweek, Lucky G, Club Master, Jackpot, Super, Bingo, Bonanza, Fortune, 06, Jagaban
On leaving the gambling den I asked a passer-by who wanted to take off when he saw that I was a journalist, he told me that many youth devote majority of their daily incomes to playing Baba Ijebu on a daily basis without winning anything. He added that although he had played it once, he was grateful he did not win because assuming he won, he would have spent all his savings and salary on it.
On a visit to another gambling den, the one at Ajirisegiri street located near Kosy Bethel Primary School Ilupeju, the area Boys were seen smoking Indian Hemp, when I managed to persuade one of them to speak to me he said “He doesn’t play, he just comes here to smoke as his friends were addicted to the game, they believe anything they are told about winning numbers and they can do anything to get the numbers.”
Olayiwola David a student of mass communication of the Polytechnic Ire said: "Baba ijebu is okay for poor people like us as it has helped me in many situation, last week I gained seven thousand four hundred naira when I was very broke, I was able to use the money to do so many things. Baba ijebu has helped me a lot."
When I asked him for his favourite game he said: “I do play MSP (Monday Special), Enugu, Royal, Diamond etc."
Contrary to widespread opinion that only men gamble I met a woman there, who told me her name is Mama Lekan, I am a tailor she says and I play Baba Ijebu she told me proudly. “Yesterday I was broke and I used just 30 naira to win one thousand two hundred naira which I used it to feed my kids."
When I asked her if she was addicted she said: “I don’t play it every time, I play it just once in a while, I only do it when I am broke.”
I met another man near the den at shyllon /Iseyin link obviously drunk when I asked for his name he said “Omo Ojuelegba le mi, I am fondly referred to as senator papa when the reporter pressed on he said my name is “Muyinwa Fabunmi, I play baba Ijebu every weekend and I love playing 06 and National the main the main Saturday"
After then he offered to help the reporter get the winning number for the weekend. When I told him I don’t gamble, he encouraged me to try it.
In an interview with the owner of the gambling den at railway line near fagbile he said “This is just like any business, we are legal, and we have permission from the state and federal government. People patronize a lot and we have enriched so many people despite the fact we are gamblers."
However, after interviewing some of the gamblers and inhaling a lot of Indian hemp from different dens I visited, I discovered that contrary to the opinion of the gamblers, no one has ever succeeded from gambling and no great or successful man can be pointed as a gambler and also despite all the advantages people think Baba Ijebu has, many young boys have been rendered hopeless by it.
We therefore implore the government to regulate so it can help protect addicts. They can set limit to the activities of these gambling dens and ways for players to set limits for themselves on the amount they can bet or the length of time they can play.
However, lawyers like Tunde Bakare warns that cases like Kehinde’s will become increasingly common if more states allow these gambling dens thereby resulting in moral decline in our society.
For Kehinde however, Baba Ijebu gambling offered two addictive activities gambling and taking marijuana each of which are addictive and also detrimental. Kehinde and the others are not too sure about what the future holds for them as they are have become addicts and they wish that the government would come to their aid by sanctioning this gambling dens and providing jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youths.