As grandfather would always say “a child can’t tell apart Ume’s watery palmwine from Ofo’s nkwu enu, unless his father is Ume.
While coursing through my years; my brief years if you prefer, I had the inclination that adult life would be fair. I saw the tasks my parents carried out (I suppose not all) and was fascinated.
My father relinquished his bed by 8:00 am in the morning to get to work by 9:30 or later. By that time, I was on full make ready to school, just after an expedited meal of pap and roadside akara.
Getting back home after terrible school hours and my teachers hoarse voice and cruel cane proved excruciating as well. Mother wouldn’t be home to make me lunch and I would be too lazy or inadequate to make food myself. Of course later, virtue of a magical design, I would discover a covered plate of cold rice in the secure part of our wooden cupboard, away from the reach of the starving rats.
Father should be back by 4:30 pm but wouldn’t be home till 7:00pm after a noisy evening in Iya Bankole’s beer parlour with his temperamental friends, to demand in a slumberous voice for his lunch from mother.
“Adulthood will be easy and would be here soon”, I always consoled myself after my teacher drilled my bony buttocks. “You will have a good job and plenty money and live alone, alone from teacher and mother and father”. This consolation always assuaged my apprehension and made me feel eager for the future.
Well, I guess adulthood came faster than I expected or I grew up way too fast. Adulthood came with critical oversight, “no one cared anymore”. The true story is being told, just like any other young man would tell you.
My initiation to adulthood will forever remain memorable. Your choices were nearly made already for you by unforeseen circumstances before you had a chance, so you would always be left with very few choices. Getting good employment remains a mere wish despite your diverse certifications, the government has made a choice for us already on that.
We can’t go back to being kids again, to be a torn in the neck for the very people we stood against all through our formative years.
“Ahead, ahead!”, we cried.
However, before I took my own decision, I had to examine the implications of my proposed decisions and most times it turns out well.
I had two neighbours who were almost my age in the dingy yard; Olu and Eze, energetic young men.
Olu was more of a welfarist but not a thorough and Eze was a confused opposite. Eze nurtured the notion that the government was supposed to handle all the necessary bills of the taxpayers while Olu knew the nation was sick and one needed to survive by setting up a profitable venture for oneself.
It was however unbecoming, that poor Olu couldn’t set up his own profitable venture because the expenses of daily running would trample him, so he managed a little employment as a clerk in a paint factory. Eze on the other hand became empowered…
By a sports betting program.
With a minimum of #100 he was liable to grab hundreds of thousands. So he began to swindle us of all little change and made us know that he was going to blow each time because he had gotten access to sure odds.
Eze finally became an addict. His addiction was unique because regular people got addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, women and drugs but Eze got addicted to betting. He used up all his little savings to bet on football every single day. He was lucky a few times to win a couple thousands but his outrageous debts never let the money abide with him.
Poor Eze had his room full of bet slips that we had no reason to buy toilet paper anymore. He spent all the hours of his long day in the stuffy container were the computers used for betting were programmed.
Eze told us a good many times that he always came close to winning a jack pot but his bets always had a cut from one or two failed games. Eze became a deranged fellow, he never took care of himself nor had a good bath, he used cheap soaps or no soaps at all in order to save money. He ate a slim breakfast as his only food for the day.
Truth be told!
Eze was gradually becoming a shadow of who he was supposed to be but never had a chance to become.
In Nigeria, football betting has an impressively long history that can be traced to the colonial times, when pool betting was quite popular amongst older adults. This time, betting has evolved to football betting, younger people consistently bet on the results of football matches spending huge sums to bet most times.
It is estimated that about 60 million active Nigerians are also active betters. It is as well estimated that the betting industry in Nigeria generates about 2 billion naira every single day! Including Eze’s own money too.
Nigeria has a population of about 200 million and about 87 million Nigerians live in abject poverty. The unemployment statistics of the youth as well, over risen in 2018 at 36.5 percent. The evolution of the internet and availability of smart phones does not help matters as it has become quite easier for youths to book their bets without leaving their comfort zone.
Football betting made Eze become indolent and opposed to hard work. Olu after his various disappointment might tow his line too and so might I too, if I must thrive at least.
To be frank, football betting persistently breeds injurious fancy to a young person and will make them develop harmful ideas about obtaining wealth.
But it is always difficult to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. When a single option seems to provide succour alone, at least for a moment, it becomes an obligation and not a choice. The sea of doom looks promising and offers an imaginary relief but never is.
Employment and youth welfare and concentration should be an undebatable option if the government wants to lead the youths out of this unhealthy snare. The idea is to provide these innovative Nigerian youths the possibility of leaving their dreams by contributing back to society.
It could get better, but no one wants to bell the cat.
Mbam Chukwuemeka can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org