A few good years ago in Jand, I and a couple of workmates decided to form a temporary lottery syndicate, pool resources and buy lottery tickets each, to increase our odds of winning a 30million pounds lottery jackpot.
Normally, I do not send the lottery, as I have always felt that I would have better odds fetching water with a basket, or purchasing an electric cooker because I had belief that NEPA would come good rather than let me starve, or buying a Terry G single for the lyrics. Heck, there are better odds misappropriating Nigerian Pension Funds than winning the lottery at 40 billion to one than winning the lottery. Least I could enrich myself at the public’s expense; worst case scenario, even if I got caught by EFCC or an anti corruption body, I could use connections to get off with a 750000 naira slap on the wrist.
However, this case was different, and I had a reason for playing the lottery . Some months back, a couple in their 50s had won a record 161 million pounds, which was the highest payout in Britain at the time. The newspapers went crazy when the husband, 65, proclaimed that “they were now as rich as the Beckhams.” True, the Beckhams were worth about 165 million pounds then.
Wow! I remembered, switching off the TV after I heard that boast, and thinking to myself – well fuck me, if I won 161 million pounds, I would scream out from 3rd Mainland Bridge “I am richer than my ex-state governor! I can now afford to hire graduate drivers and pay then 500,000 naira per year to move my trucks on Naija death roads; I can have my convoy of German luxury cars pick me from the tarmac of Murtala Mohammed International whenever I arrive, even though it endangers other commercial flights. Chei, I can have noisy owambe parties and block off major roads and bridges, and inconvenience other road users. While I am at it, I can import runs girls from the top private universities for threesome orgies in my VGC villa. Choi! I could even contest for Senate and win the election without stepping a foot into my constituency….”
In the UK or Yankee, lottery winners are usually inundated with attractive offers from credit card companies and financial investors who offer them all manners of services and incentives. In Nigeria, once you hit any form of millions, it is hangers-on, ‘distant’ relatives, and traditional rulers who chase you for financial favors or to bestow chieftaincy titles on you.
I had other reasons to play the lottery too. Imagine if because of the mere 1 pound fee it takes to play the lotto, I neglected to try my luck, and then my co-workers scooped the top prize in my absence. Fear caught me o. Britico people no sabi share at all.
So we bought the tickets, pledging that if any of us pulled the winning number, we would all share the jackpot equally. Imagine 30 million splitting 8 ways – that’s some decent mula.
The next 24 hours were a pain, as I had to play the waiting game. You know that feeling of hopeless anticipation, like when you are sweating in the heat, begging NEPA to bring back the power, but you know remember your neighborhood transformer had blown. It didn’t stop me keeping my phone close to me, hoping one of the lads would call me to announce that we had won big. I don hammer o!
As I sat there, many thoughts passed through my head. I envisaged picking up my winnings, and hitting the next thing smoking to Lagos. I would rather be a millionaire in the Zanga, than a Big Time Charlie in the land of Mama Charlie. As I sat there, I recalled an instance where a Nigerian friend of mine, from back in Scotland looked up at the sky, smiling as he explained what he would do if he ever won lottery millions.
He shook his head as he said “Esco, all I need is just 500,000 pounds; one million or ten million is even too much. I would first of all call and inform my mother in Nigeria; and then warn her to quit from that her junk civil service job. I would then go shopping in Harrods, and then return to Nigeria like a prodigal son. I would tell my mum like this – mummy I am buying a shop for you in Victoria Island, so get ready to fly to Dubai to go shopping for stock. Then I would relocate my entire family from FESTAC to Banana Island in Ikoyi sharp sharp.”
All for 500k pounds? Ok o. Besides why is that most Nigerians in the Diaspora say they would return to Nigeria immediately if they ever stumbled upon great wealth. Being rich in Nigeria must be the lick.The Hamptons or Old Ikoyi? Hmmm…
I wanted to snap him out of his daydream, but he preferred to stay in Total Recall mode:”I would then travel to Germany to ship down 3 tear-rubber models of Mercedes – a G Wagon, an ML 500 and a small C-Class for my mum. All my rides would be German, no time for Korean brands.” What about Volkswagen?
I reminded him that he had not said anything about cars for his siblings. His answer was followed by an evil sigh “Mcheew…Na them win lottery? Berger for Apapa never close na. I would buy them first class tokunboh in Nigeria. Abi make I carry all my money give them, make them rest? I would then hire 5 domestic servants in French maid outfits to work in my mansion and serve me hand and foot. I would contest the House of Rep election for my state, and then float a company for winning government contracts.”
I can see it now Lotto Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited. Ok o.
He was clearly enjoying himself too much, and his eyes lit up as he continued to fool himself “All my furniture for my house in Banana Island would be imported straight from England. Every room including the toilets would have an LCD TV. But I would also invest some of the money as well in ventures.”
I looked at him with my eyes open in mock surprise as I quipped sarcastically, you don’t mean it. So now you remember to invest money, 499999 pounds later. What kind of venture would this be, pray tell, O wise one?
He smiled proudly like he had just done something epic like postulating a theory in quantum physics, or deciphering the inner workings of Tonto Dike’s thought process, as he concluded: “I have always really liked alcohol and spirits. So I would open up a distillery in Ughelli, where we would bottle and export local alcohol. Forget Ciroc Vodka or even Vitamin Water, I would export Sapele Water as a premium spirit.” It is a ‘spirit’ alright.
One of my theories about human nature is thus – you can tell the character of a person by the manner and articles they spend money on when they get it. It is easier to take up a goody two-shoes, moralistic posture as a saint with a halo, when you are skint. It is the things you do, the excesses you opt for, or the discipline you show when ‘pepper rests’ that paints your true picture of your persona.
That’s why crooked politicians’ favor objects of expenditure like fast cars, faster women like runs girls or prostitutes, insane amounts of real estate in high-brow areas and a quest to retain their mandate through selection rather than election. Wealth to them is all about enjoyment, and never about employment. If corrupt government officials spend their illicit wealth on opening factories which employ graduates, or setting up initiatives to better the lot of the masses, they would make small sense. But the trend is to purchase unrealistic units of real estate, which lie derelict and unoccupied because they would rather charge ridiculous sums for rent, than accept an affordable fee from tenants. There are thousands of high-end real estate lying fallow, and rooming Agama lizards and weeds in Oniru, Lekki, Maitama and Wuse. These properties are as empty as the owners.
As I sat in my flat, watching old tapes of “A Night of a 1000 Laughs”, I chuckled as I recalled what my Britico co-workers said they would do with their winnings. Let me just say that their plans were a bit different from my Naija friend:
- I would move from my tiny council flat in Leyton to a terrace house with a garden in Maida Vale
- My dream is to open a center for disadvantaged and autistic kids in Brixton.
- Esco, are you kidding me? I would call in on Monday and tell the boss to stick his job where the sun don’t shine. I would then go on a cruise with a luxury liner around Europe.
- Men, the first thing I would do is fly out and get smashed on a lad’s holiday with all of you to Aiya Napa. Eh, Aiye wetin?
- Oh my days! I would use of my winnings to purchase a cottage for my and my partner in Norfolk or Yorkshire
- Norfolk or Yorkshire? Who wants to live in wet and cold Blighty? I am off to Australia or Marbella in Spain.
- I have always wanted to do voluntary work in India and Peru, then go hiking and bungie jumping in Brazil.
- I am happy as I am. I would keep working, and give most of my winnings to charity. I would keep just enough to pay for my funeral when I am gone.
It was a middle-aged unmarried oyibo man who made the last statement. Everybody else thought it unusual but shrugged their shoulders, as they thought: na your ishoro be that.
In Nigeria, he would have been sent to a church for deliverance from the spirit of poverty.
And I thought to myself, maybe its best I just forget it. The lottery in life is hard work or laziness. You better your odds for success considerably by working hard at something you are passionate about, and never giving up. If I did win the lottery, there are many doors it could open for me. I could set up a foundation to fight against the work of runs girls. I could build WoahNigeria into a Disney-like conglomerate. Yes I do like cars and luxury goods, but I want something I could take with me to the grave. Not to bequeath a legacy that would make my descendants spend more time fighting in the courts for inheritance than co-existing to build something epic for Nigeria.
However I, like all Nigerians, could handle the disappointment of not winning, and still kick on regardless. In a way, we Nigerians play the lottery everyday when we vote in questionable leaders on ethnic or personal grounds; we keep gambling with our future and those of our kids by celebrating mediocrity, corruption and the illicit stockpiling of wealth. We play the most unfair and unwinnable lottery when we expect a different outcome by repeating the same mistakes that got us here in the first place. What we win is not a million pieces of silver or units of legal tender; our takings are a million steps backwards into stagnant under-development or one billion decibels of pain and frustration with our national experiment.
Needless to say, the call that I had won the lottery never did come. I reported for work on the cold, misty Monday morning, and had to contend with a few of the sad and crestfallen faces of my co-workers, especially the one who was really looking for the bachelor retreat in Aiya Napa, Cyprus. I laughed inside like, una never jam.
What would you do if you won or came up 1 million dollars right now. Please be truthful and don’t try to sell a pipe dream. If you already have a million dollars, what would you do with 1 billion dollars? And if Dangote is one of my readers, good afternoon sir!
I would be lying if I said I didn’t want millions/
More than money saved, I wanna save children/
Common (The 6th Sense, 2000)