Working Lives: The Ubiquitous Agents of Baba Ijebu
You could also call them The Red Brigade – the men and women you see at bus stops or near the gates of mostly commercial buildings all over Lagos hurdled over small red machines the size of a POS terminal and surrounded by working class (i.e. people engaged in non-professional jobs like artisans) types. Probably everyone knows they are engaged in gambling but only a few of us have anything beyond this basic knowledge. We decided to find out more about the Working Lives of these people. They are agents of Premier Lotto, owned by Sir Kesington Adebukunola Adebutu. Sir Adebutu is from Iperu Remo, an Ijebu town, hence the alias, Baba Ijebu, which his business is known by. To win, punters have to correctly predict winning numbers. Many players believe there is a science to predicting the patterns of winning numbers while others think it’s down to luck. Some claim the numbers are revealed in dreams. And even by mad men! Whatever they believe, the agents of Baba Ijebu are everywhere in Lagos to help them play.
Working Lives: The Baba Ijebu Agent and Fashion Designer Who Saves N7, 000 a Week
If I can get enough money to rent a shop and buy extra sewing machine, I will be good to go. I am very good at what I do and I am very sure a lot of people will patronise me. I have a customer base already, all I need to do is just establish the business on a large scale. Not too large, just something minimal for a start at least.
Ibrahim Adebanjo, 23 years old.
Where are you from?
I am from Abeokuta in Ogun state. But I was born and brought up in Lagos.
Tell me about your family?
My dad works with a printing press and my mom is a fashion designer. I am also a fashion designer. I started learning tailoring before I finished from secondary school. I attended Ilupeju Grammar School in Oshodi. I still get small small tailoring jobs here and there and it’s being useful additional income. I have two siblings, I am the second born. I moved out of the house and started living with my friends when my dad lost his job. It was a very rough experience. It was my older brother who was helping the family
Where do you live/ how much is the rent?
I live with my friends in Iyana-Ipaja, I don’t live with my parents anymore. We stay in a room and we pay N3, 000:00 monthly for the rent.
How did you start working for Baba Ijebu lotto?
My older brother actually owns the shop, so I technically work for him. I didn’t need to do any registration or bring a guarantor. After secondary school, he just told me to come and start working for him instead of just sitting at home and roaming about. That was how I started working for Baba Ijebu. A guarantor is necessary because the company is trusting you with their money (money realized from customers stakes) so if things go south, maybe one decides to run away with the money, the company will hold your guarantor responsible.
How does it work – what are you expected to do when you get to the shop every day?
When I get to the shop in the morning, I clean everywhere and then load the terminal machine and then customers start to come in and play. That’s it.
How much do you make from sales in a day?
The highest sales I have had in a day is N110, 000:00. But I make more than N50,000:00 every day.
How many hours do you work in a day?
For how long have you been doing this job?
I have been working for my brother for about 3 years now. I started in late 2016.
How are you paid?
I get paid daily. You know I told you that I don’t work directly with Baba Ijebu. I work under my brother who is an agent with them, so I get paid N1,500:00 daily. Sometimes I get a bonus and I go home with N2,000:00.
How do you remit the money?
I just give the money to my older brother when I close for the day. So he does the necessary calculation and remits the next day.
How much do you spend in a day?
I spend N250:00 on transport daily. Then if I should calculate my feeding for the day with it that will be about N700 daily.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes, I have a bank account.
Do you have savings?
Yes, I save weekly. I save N7,000:00 weekly but sometimes only N5,000:00. But the average amount I disciplined myself to be saving weekly is N5,000:00 no matter what.
Who are your customers?
Anybody can come and play as long as the person is above 18. There’s really not a particular demography for customers that come in to play over here.
How frequently do they win?
People actually win very well. There is no day that one or two customers won’t win big and this is apart from the minor winnings other customers always win. Like N10, 000:00 below.
Do you play yourself?
Yes, I play. But, it is not all the time. The thing with gambling is that it is very addictive. So I try to discipline myself not to get addicted. I don’t have a lot of money that I can afford to lose for now.
Who are the smartest customers?
For me I feel this game is not about how smart one is, it is all about luck. That’s how I feel. So I don’t keep track of how smart a customer is or how moderate the person is.
Very happy stories about customers?
There is a man that comes in regularly, he plays a game of about N7, 000:00 and he gets a return of N50, 000:00. This happens regularly for him.
Sad story about customers?
The thing with this game is one has to be consistent if you really want to win. You can’t just play once and expect money to come. It might happen though. But it’s very rare. I have a customer like that. He has the money to play the game but he is not consistent in playing so he doesn’t really know how to forecast the game. So he tends to lose money regularly.
Most shocking thing that happened?
There are a lot of customers that come in here. We have some thugs who come to play. When dealing with such people, one have to be very careful. Most of them don’t have courtesy. They just talk anyhow and are always ready to fight. I always try and avoid such people.
Average amount the average customer stakes?
I really can’t tell, honestly. It’s mixed. There are some people that come in daily and don’t play anything more than N100:00 and on the other hand, there are some that come in regularly to play a game of N15, 000:00 and above. So, it’s mixed, I really can’t tell. It is more or less like two categories of people always come to play, the ordinary folks, and the very rich ones. I have a customer that played a game of N20, 000:00 in a day and another person played a game with N40, 000:00 in a day. Many customers can’t afford to stake more than N100:00.
Are you married/ looking forward to marrying?
No, I am not married o. I am still a small boy. But I have a girlfriend.
Do you have plans to venture into something else and leave this business?
That will have to be my fashion designing business. If I can get enough money to rent a shop and buy extra sewing machine, I will be good to go. I am very good at what I do and I am very sure a lot of people will patronise me. I have a customer base already, all I need to do is just establish the business on a large scale. Not too large, just something minimal for a start at least.