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.
I always put my customers first. Some games don’t come until 10:30 p.m. so I stay back until like 11 p.m most times. There are some early morning games and I have customers that always want to play before they leave for work so I always try to be here by 7:30 a.m. latest. Ha I am just calculating my work hours for the first time o, that’s like 16 hours!.
Olukunle Olamilekan, Agbelekale, Abule-Egba, Twenty-nine years old
Where are you from?
I am from Ogun State, Abeokuta North to be precise. I was born and brought up in Lagos though.
Tell me about your family?
My daddy was working with the Federal Government Railway Service but he retired just before he died last year. My mom is a trader, she sells provisions in Oshodi market. My parents gave have eight children. I am the last born.
Where do you live?
I still live in my father’s house. It is a 3 bedroom flat in Agbelekale, Abule-Egba. I live together with my mom and the rest of my siblings that are not married yet. My father owns the house, I don’t have to pay any rent.
How did you start working for Baba ijebu lotto?
I have a passion for it that’s number one. I am good with numbers, so I decided to give it a shot and said to myself that after a certain period of time I was going to quit. So when I started I wasn’t putting so much energy. It was later on that I realised I have been slacking on the job. I would have gotten more than what I was making if I had faced it squarely right from time. So that was how I started. I was able to sponsor my education with the earnings from this job. I studied accounting at Yabe Tech. Most of my friends still don’t believe I could carve a niche for myself from this job. Glory be to God, I can now support myself. I currently run two lotto shops. I started after working with Baba Ijebu after secondary school. I started late 2010.
How does it work- what are you expected to do when you get to the shop every day?
After doing the registration and bringing a guarantor that will stand for you, then you will be given a two-day trial to test your ability during which you are monitored by a principal agent. When they see that you are really serious, you will then be given the terminal machine. After that, business starts right away. Principal agents are the ones that give directives to we the sub-agents. Once the lotto attendant enters your selection in the on-line terminal, which produces your game ticket. The ticket, not the play slip, is the official receipt and must be presented and validated in the event of a win.
How much do you make from sales in a day?
Due to this area and my shop location, this area is not a commercial place. It is a residential area. But due to the knowledge I also have from running the business I am able to make N100,000:00. Sometimes even more. Assuming I am in a business area I would be making more than that. So I make N15,000:00 on days when I make N100,000 in sales. And like I said, sometimes I make more.
How many hours do you work in a day?
It is really not up to me. I always put my customers first. The games are scheduled and there are some that don’t come until 10:30pm and some customers will of course want to play so I stay back until like 11 p.m most times. And for the fact that there are some early morning games and I know that I have customers that always want to play before they leave for work in the morning,I always try to be here by 7:30 a.m. latest. Ha I am just calculating my work hours for the first time o, that’s like 16 hours!
For how long have you been doing this job?
I have been doing it for the past ten years.
How are you paid?
We are paid based on commission and the agreed percentage is 15%. But there is another game that the company also promotes. That one is all the way from Ghana. So winnings on that attracts 20% commission. It is called Ghana Games lottery products.
How do you remit the money?
We remit the money daily. For instance, the money I make from sales today, I have to remit it before 2 p.m. the next day.
How much do you spend in a day?
Due to the nature of the business, you know I have people that work under me now, I am more or less like a supervisor. I spend N1,000:00 daily on myself on feeding and my transport fare for the day. But, for the shop expenses, petrol and other minor things, I always budget N2,000:00. So that is about N3,000:00 in a day.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes, I have a bank account.
Do you have savings? how much do you save in a month?
I save daily and the amount I save for the day is based on what I get for my commission on that day. So the amount I save depends on my sales, sometimes I save N1,500:00 and sometimes I save N2,000:00 or even N3,000:00.
Who are your customers?
Everyone is actually my customer, as long as you are 18+ you are welcomed. Just make sure you bring plenty money.
How frequently do they win?
People win frequently. At least in a day, two or three people always win nothing less than N20,000:00 each plus other small winnings like N6,000:00.
Do you play yourself?
Yes, I do. And I win frequently too. Whatever amount of money I realize from wining is what I mostly use for my personal upkeep and then lau lau spending. I wouldn’t say I always win more than I stake because I sometimes lose too. The winnings roughly for a month is about N35,000 or N45,000 when I stake about N10,000 in total. It all depends on how much I stake.
Who are the smartest customers?
Well I have some respected customers who know the in and out of the game. But this game at the end of the day boils down to luck. It is a 50/50 that one might win or not.
Very happy stories about customers?
I have a customer that have won N500,000:00 in a single game. He was so happy on that day, he gave me N10, 000:00 to pocket. There are also few others that won big amounts like N200,000:00 or N250,000:00 in a week.
Most shocking thing that happened?
That are some funny characters. You know how people can like to misbehave. We know that most customers are not always happy when they lose so we have to be calm in relating with them. It’s very annoying when a customer just comes and starts insulting you. A customer came one time like that and wanted to fight with me because he lost N100,000:00. I knew it pained him but he didn’t have to pass his frustration down on me. He scattered my shop and even broke the aluminum window. It was a very horrible experience.
Average amount a customer puts in a day or week?
I have seen a customer that staked a game with N42,000:00 in a day. But N100:00 or N500:00 is the usual.
Are you married/ looking forward to marrying?
I am not married yet but I am looking forward to getting married soon.
Do you have plans to venture into something else and leave this business?
That will be football. Football is my passion and I won’t mind getting a sponsor that can help. I put total mind in football. I am really looking forward to start playing professionally. Even if MFM can sign me, that will be a good start.