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Demola Rewaju: What has God got to do with Arsenal, Baba Ijebu & gambling? (Y! Superblogger)

by Demola Rewaju

APN292988

I have never met anyone who became rich through gambling except in games where skill counts. Even in ludo, you need a bit of luck if you hope to win: how can you even come out of your house if you don’t get a single 6? I’d rather bet on the things I can do – ask me to bet whether I can finish a hot bowl of amala with Afang soup

My muse plays games with me. Sometimes it brings me an idea that I develop within minutes then find an appropriate title for but other times it brings me a topic I need to research first, see what others have said about it then find a different perspective to it. This piece belongs to the latter and I’ll try to keep it short.

There’s this illiterate young guy that used to come and use my friend’s internet connection every evening around 4pm. One day, he left the Facebook page he’d been checking open and Deji (my friend) glimpsed it was the page of another friend of ours so he questioned the illiterate guy about it the following day and discovered that our other friend was a big time Baba Ijebu forecaster somewhere in Shitta so he mentioned it to me and I and another friend paid the forecaster a visit.

We went to Shitta through a small crowd of hemp-smoking egbons and got to our old friends house. We started asking him questions about the game and he revealed to us that there are over 50 lotto games usually classified under the generic name Baba Ijebu. Some of this lotteries are played daily with head offices all over Nigeria and one particular one (Vag or so) is played in Ghana from where the results are announced.

To play a lottery, you choose a series of numbers, stake some money on them, the agent enters your number on his red machine which sends it to the company headquarters and gives you a ticket with your lucky numbers on it. You then go home and hope that the machine at the headquarters picks the same numbers you’ve chosen when it rolls. Forecasters make it their duty to predict what numbers the machines would roll out and to do this, they usually have large sheets and charts of games played as far back as many years ago and use it to predict that since the machine rolled a particular number (7-12-14-3 for instance) last year and the year before in the second week of March for instance, it will likely roll the same number out this year.

Funny as it seems, sometimes this happens and there is usually a big payout. I did stake some cash on Baba Ijebu for two weeks after that but I never won money. Funnily, I know several people who hit it big with lottery.

Sports betting is the most ingenious game ever to come to Nigeria. Nigerians love sports especially European football. We all think we know more than the next guy so a game like this that allows you to predict who will win a particular match or a series of matches played on a weekend is one that can never fail to find customers.

I’m reading a book now that traces the history of how men developed when they stopped putting their chances in the hands of fate. The Greeks and Romans initially believed that the outcome of any enterprise depended on the Fates – three sisters who were responsible for how every life on earth turn outs. One sister spins the cloth which represents your life, another weaves it (your experiences) and the last sister cuts it off – death. The game of gambling changed all that – men started to discover that some numbers on a pair of dice are more likely to come up than others. Using the regular six-sided dice like the one we use to play ludo (a latin word that comes from the verb ‘ludere’ which means ‘to play’) we find that some numbers will occur more frequently than others. 1 has no chance of coming up in a double dice game for instance and chances of playing double 6 is one out of a number of possible combinations. The most common number to get if you roll a double dice is seven which can come up as 1+6, 2+5, 3+4, 4+3, 5+2 and 6+1. If you need a seven, there are more chances that you will get it than not. Once the mathematical factor came into gambling, it changed a lot of things about how people approached it.

With sports and Baba Ijebu, I see no logical way to figure out how what numbers or set of numbers the machine will roll out on a particular evening if it is indeed as random as Papa Aluwe makes it seem on the Golden Chance Lotto programme every weekday afternoon on NTA Channel 10. I have a friend who placed sports bet on all the weekend matches in the Spanish La Liga. He had got all his predictions right except the one that seemed most likely – a game between Real Madrid and a lesser team which they ended up drawing. My friend had predicted an outright win for the Galacticos so he lost and made the company richer.

Make no mistake: only one person ever benefits from gambling and that is Baba Ijebu himself, the sports betting company or the house if it’s a casino game you’re playing. There was this weekend that Baba Ijebu through a forecaster in Okota area leaked the winning numbers beforehand and everyone made huge winnings that weekend. The following weekend, more people played baba Ijebu with higher cash stakes and they all lost heavily.

I have never met anyone who became rich through gambling except in games where skill counts. Even in ludo, you need a bit of luck if you hope to win: how can you even come out of your house if you don’t get a single 6? I’d rather bet on the things I can do – ask me to bet whether I can finish a hot bowl of amala with Afang soup or if I can read an 800 pages Robert Ludlum book in 24 hours or if I can write a thousand words on a silly topic like Baba Ijebu in thirty minutes and I will gladly stake most of my cash on any of those.

Where does God come in? You see in Nigeria, we always believe no matter how much the odds are stacked against us that God can turn things in our favour. We believe the machine doesn’t just roll out numbers but that God is the one who determines the outcome of it and there’s always evidence of this: I know two people personally who got married and their only vocation I know of is playing Baba Ijebu – I kid you not.

Which brings us to the question: are some people luckier than others when it comes to gambling? Me, I’m good at gambling when money is not involved but once you introduce money, my luck always changes so I avoid gambling for money as a strict principle. We used to play this game in secondary school where someone would produce a note and let the others guess the serial numbers on it. One of my friend always got the highest numbers correct and won the money – how he did it, I dont know but I just put it down to luck.

In every game there are odds i.e. your chances. When the odds are against you, it means you have little chance of winning which is why in the movie Hunger Games the prayer was always that “May the Odds ever be in your favour”. Life itself is a game, a much riskier game. Stepping out of your house and crossing the road is more dangerous than living in Yobe or Adamawa states where Boko Haram is still on rampage. More people get killed every year by car accidents.

We gamble daily therefore, not for money but for the higher price of a better life. I’m taking a gamble that someone will read this post and like it for instance but there’s always a slim chance that by some random design, the odds will be upset. There’s a story of a man who lived in France when the German aircraft bombs rained on the country during World War II. He never ran for cover into the underground bunkers because according to him “there are 7 million people in France. The odds of the German bombs hitting me is 1 in 7 million.”

One day, the man appeared at the underground bunker feeling very afraid and they asked him why he decided to come during this air raid and he said “There are 7 million people in France and only one elephant. Today, the German bombs got the elephant”.

Arsenal plays Everton this weekend and the odds are stacked against my team but some fans still believe a miracle will happen and that’s how gamblers think – they always expect miracles even when the odds are stacked against them, God is always behind them but God is not a gambler…or is He?

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Demola Rewaju blogs from Demolarewajudaily.com

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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