Home Essays My Battle With A Monster Called Sports Betting by Oluka Chukwuemeka. 

My Battle With A Monster Called Sports Betting by Oluka Chukwuemeka. 

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Recently, I wrote a thought-provoking essay on the need for an urgent action against sports betting amongst Nigerian youths. In that essay, it never occurred to the readers it was a first-hand experience of my encounter with a monster called sports betting. I call it a monster because I had become addicted to it and the addiction had assumed extraordinary, dangerous and frightening dimensions. 

It all began in my 100 Level in the university. I was new on campus and we just had our matriculation ceremony. One fateful day on a Saturday, I woke up determined to savour the sweetness of my local delicacy, ‘Abacha’. Being a native of Enugu state, ‘Abacha’ was a meal I enjoyed pretty well and have missed a lot, since gaining admission into the higher institution. Interestingly, it was part of the delicacies my parents had prepared when they visited my school during the occasion of my matriculation. So, it wasn’t unusual that I woke up that morning, longing for more, just like Oliver Twist. At midday, after the day’s workI headed straight for Ntashi-osa, a popular joint around campus to oblige my taste buds; but along the way, I decided to dash quickly to Benny plaza to buy a few stationeries for lectures on Monday.  

Walking into the plaza, a big shop caught my attention. It was filled with young people, and they were predominantly boys. It looked as though it was one of those business centres in Nkpokiti area of those days when JAMB registration was a booming business.  Many hung at the door and wore long faces. They were desperate to go in.  Those inside were busy and had their eyes fixated on computer screens and on their smart phones. They had troubled faces. I was determined to gaze further inside just so I could catch a glimpse of what items were probably being sold in the shop. Moving closer, could feel the air inside the shop because, the industrial fan was blowing hot already. I saw most of them clutching a white piece of paper. On each paper was written, Make one million with a N100 bet. It was then it dawned on me it was a betting house. It was weekend, on a match day, and so, the place was packed with passionate fans rooting for their favourite European teams and sporting replica jerseys of those teams. On keen observation, I noticed that the white piece of paper they held was a “ticket”. Tickets are printed copies of selected games on which bets are placed. They were betting on matches being played in Europe. Each person could be seen putting in more money and altering bets in real time as the matches progressed. To say I was bewildered by the boisterous crowd was to say the least.  

Further evaluation revealed they were mostly young undergraduates with remarkably identical age brackets. But that was not all; I met Jukwuese, my high school friend and classmate in the shop. He was in his 200 Level and had gained admission before me. On sighting me, he gave a thunderous shout, rushed towards me and gave me a crazy hug. We were so happy to reconnect once more after high school and most especially, to have been offered admission into the same university. We quickly exchanged contacts with the promise to hang out the evening of the following day. I left the shop and then proceeded to get my stationery ready for Monday. On my way however, I couldn’t help but ponder on what I had encountered.  

Evening came, the following day and Jukwuese and I met at the popular Ntachi-osa joint. We were served plates of Abacha garnished with Ukpaka, Anyara and ‘Azu’. Meanwhile, a little jug of fresh palm wine could be sighted just by the corner. While we were eating, Jukwuese put the question before me, “what brought you to Agbakoba’s shop yesterday? Have you too become a bet tycoon? I quickly responded saying, I was on my way to get a few items for lectures when I noticed the charged atmosphere around the shop, and in my curiosity, I found myself inside the shop. I also told him I knew close to nothing about betting and what it portends. No sooner had I finished responding, than he burst into laughter. He knew I was a fresher on campus and was pretty oblivious of what the trending thing was. He wasted no time in making the promise of introducing me to the betting world. He told me it was a lucrative way I could be financially independent while on campus. In fact, he said he and his friends had made huge fortunes out of it. In his words, “Agbakoba’s shop has fast become the cynosure of all eyes on campus for this reason. He has made many students millionaires and the students in turn, have made him a millionaire”. For Jukwuese, sports betting was generally fast becoming the real deal in Nigeria.  

After our hangout that evening, he kept to his promise because he taught me the nitty-gritties of sports betting and how to successfully place a wager on a football match. He would occasionally visit my hostel to put me through and help me navigate difficult matches. That was not all; he also introduced me to some of his close friends who in turn linked me to trending online odd makers. In betting terms, an odd maker is one who figures betting odds.  

Going forward, I could be seen spending minutes and hours on bet-staking sites, checking the largest odds and pay-outs to the extent that found myself skipping lectures. Even when I attended lectures, I always had divided attention simply because I’d be checking bookmarks and monitoring odds with my internet-enabled mobile phone. Little did I partake in other activities that could be beneficial to me. Such activities like reading or learning something new never appealed to me anymore. My discussions with friends always centred around sports betting. When I won games, the urge to want more from the betting platform couldn’t be resisted. I would be forced to stake one more and one more rolled into two more and so, my personal savings many times ended in oblivion. Yet, the jackpot rarely came. At some points, when I lost bets, it sets off the urge to keep playing, rather than prompt me to walk awayAt that level, I had indeed become an addict, and the level of addiction had assumed frightening dimensions. Such dimensions involved me running up huge debts and even stealing money to stake a bet. I would borrow money to stake a bet with hopes of paying back when I won; but in most cases, that doesn’t happen 

My romance with sports betting also lured me into ritualism, which involved the use of good luck charms. After some losing streaks, I made the decision that wouldn’t put a huge amount of money into betting anymore without any form of spiritual enhancement to guarantee my chances of winning. In the course of that quest, it led me to the realization that some bet company operators aalongside bookmarkers were known to use spiritual powers as well to ensure that their clients do not win.  

My bizarre experiences with sports betting could never be fully captured within the boundaries of this essay. But most striking of them was that it crippled my academic performance a whole lot because I wasn’t consistent with lectures, class works and assignments. For the two semesters in my first year, I couldn’t garner a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 2.5. And yes, it was that bad – very bad. Meanwhile, after the release of the results, I was among the students summoned by our department’s academic adviser. He revealed we failed to average a CGPA of 2.5 because majority of us incurred carry over courses to the level of 10-credit units and above. I vividly recall how he called out my name and said, “how you nosedived is what I’m yet to understand”. He said so because he knew I was the highest scoring candidate in the university tertiary matriculation examination  UTME, for the department. And so, he expected better from me. He then gave all of us strong admonition to sit up or face possible transfer from the department to other departments were our intelligent quotients can be accommodated. 

Getting home that day, I couldn’t help but feel hate for myself. I felt devasted and made an instant resolve to quit sports betting since I knew strongly it was the cause of my poor academic results. I had made plans to sever all communication links to Jukwuese alongside his group of friends. In fact, I was considering moving to a new hostel for the new academic session for this reason. But no sooner had I returned from school, than I saw Jukwuese waiting for me by the gate to our hostel. He had come to return part of the one thousand naira (N1000) he borrowed. But I told him I wouldn’t take a dime from him unless he returned the complete amount. Going home that day, he headed straight for Agbakoba’s betting shop and guess what? He used the money to place a bet. On Monday, while I was getting ready for lectures, I heard my mobile phone beep. Guess what? It was a credit alert of a hundred and fifty thousand naira (N150,000) from Jukwuese. had no sooner read the message, than he called to thank me. In his words, he said, O boy, I won the sum of three hundred thousand naira yesterday from the money you rejected. I can’t thank you enough because if you had collected the money, I wouldn’t have staked that bet. For this reason, I decided to share the proceeds equally. Ending the call, I found it hard to describe my mood because I was caught in the middle of being happy, sad and confused. This dilemma arose because not quite long, I had taken the decision to avoid Jukwuese. I lacked the will; hence, the more I tried to avoid him, the less it yielded desired results. I couldn’t even step out for the day’s lectures before he called again to invite me for merriment at our usual joint to celebrate the moment. I obliged him and that was how I relapsed into betting. This time, my condition became so deplorable to the extent that my repeated exposure to betting produced lasting changes in my brain. became depressed and this in turn, plunged me into substance abuse and desire for drugs.  

made countless resolutions to quit sports betting but, on each occasion, I would always lack the necessary will to keep the resolutions. It became clear to me I needed help. And so, I would even pray to God to help me overcome the addiction. I drew myself closer to God for this reason. The next Sunday was the induction ceremony to officially welcome freshers into the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS). Being a catholic, I prepared for the celebration of the Holy Mass in time and so, was determined never to go late. Getting to the church, the officiating priest to my greatest astonishment, centred his homily around betting. I felt as though he was referring to me. I became so edgy while the homily was delivered because those words of his cut so deep within me; so deep that at some point, I would stylishly wipe my struggling tears with the tissue paper in my breast pocket. No sooner had the induction ceremony ended, than I rushed to meet the priest. I told him I had a confession to make. He Immediately dashed for his stole and invited me into his car. I narrated my ordeal to him in tears and begged him to help me fight the addiction. It was in that moment he comforted me and I realized he was not just a priest, but also trained clinical psychologist. He prayed for me and then exorcised the betting demon in the process. He gave me some ejaculatory prayers I would say whenever the urge to bet again arose. He also left me with simple steps to follow in order to help me avoid falling into a relapse. 

After my consultation with the priest, I felt a strong resurgence of the will to change my narrative. I got home and took a pen and paper and wrote down the names of friends and situations that had the propensity to plunge me back to bet. That way, I was able to successfully identify the triggers and resolved to stay away from them. I also followed carefully, the psychotherapy sessions the reverend father introduced me to. Under each session, he was able to help me identify other betting triggers and problems and I replaced them successfully with healthier beliefs. 

With the saying that “where theres a will, theres a way”, I was desperate and determined to change my ugly narrative. And so, I found the method for accomplishing it, all thanks to the priest. The coming of the next academic session, saw me move from my previous hostel into the university lodge where betting outfits were never to be found. This helped me avoid Jukwuese and other triggers completely. I went further to install an App called, ‘The Gamban App’ on my android phone. The App is a software application for personal computers, laptops, android and iOS devices. It was quite instrumental in helping me exercise my will. My recovery from addiction was pretty seamless because the app blocked access to all betting sites I usually visited on my phone. I held tenaciously to my resolutions because I found the disposition to put my will into action. I learnt from my mistakes and most importantly, I selected my new friends carefully. It took no time before I began to reap the huge benefits in my academics. I went from a ‘carry-over’ student to a first-class student, amassing a CGPA of 4.89 in the next academic session. I ended up graduating with a good grade. This was because I found a way to fight the monstrous demon called sports betting. And that’s not all; today, I lead an advocacy group to help victims of sports betting addiction recover. Come on now, all you that may have similar problem; all hope is not lost. Keep your feet on the ground and draw inspiration from my story. This is because where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University can be reached via write2oluka@gmail.com

 

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