I grew up in one of the worst ghettos of Ibadan, the largest city in the whole of west Africa and sub-saharan Africa. Mind you, Ibadan is the capital city of Oyo state in Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the whole wide world! I must point out that I’m really proud of all that history and heritage, even if I wasn’t born with a silver-spoon, it feels good at times when I look back and realize how far I’ve come, that’s when I realize how blessed I really am. For like the first 14 years of my life, I had no special dream or aspiration, I just slept, wake up and live life but gradually my life took form, a form nobody but only God could have pre-designed. I surprise myself everyday, mount challenges and achieve greater heights.
I remember those days when I used to gamble with some boys in our neighbourhood. I got introduced to this by my elder brother, Tobi, who I used to follow, did everything he did, and go wherever he went. He’s my only brother, my two older siblings are females, therefore it was only natural for me to feel more comfortable under my brother’s wings. Meanwhile, I’ve always been a ladies’ man and I had the love( or sympathy or sentiments) of my two sisters, but when it came to playing pranks and ‘being a boy’ they just couldn’t offer me the kind of orientation my only brother would offer me.
So, I and my brother would meet with other boys in the hood for our crap game( otherwise known as dice game). I still remember a few first names of some of our cohorts, Abayomi, Hammed, Lukman, Kabir, Kola and others. We usually throw the die and gamble in an uncompleted building near Abayomi’s house. Abayomi and Hammed are brothers from the same family. Their father had two wives, we heard Hammed’s mother just left home one day never to return, leaving only Abayomi’s mother, who was a policewoman. Hammed was the eldest of the two brothers. At times, we used their house as the parents would have gone to work. It was a really big house so that was a special haven for our gambling games.
Usually there is so much uncompleted houses in the kind of ghetto where I grew up, so believe me when I say we always had choices whenever it comes to picking our ground. At times, we go to another uncompleted house far away from the football field, the house belonged to mama Dotun, my mum’s best friend then who is now of blessed memory. The house is a storey building, mama Dotun and her family lived in the lower floor & left the upper floor roofless. I and my cohorts just make use of the roofless upper floor when nobody is around the vicinity to notice us.
Just near Abayomi’s house was a plain field demarcated with bricks and the land was owned by a church. We used to play football on that field after shooting craps( dice gamble) and play football till we could no longer see the ground again. My mum was always worried by the time we got home late in the night and she sometimes reported us to our uncle, her younger brother. Back then, it was almost impossible to report us to dad even if she wanted to because dad was a workaholic police officer who left home very early in the morning and comes home very late in the night. I didn’t really know the kind of man my dad was till he left the police force and we used to be at home together everyday for a year in 2008. I just graduated from high school and was seeking university admission that time. This was the period I really got to meet my father, we had been sleeping in the same house all through my childhood but I must confess I didn’t really ‘’know’’ him! That’s a write-up for another day anyway.
Now back to my gambling friends, we enjoyed our gambles mostly on Sundays, as the weather is always cool & calm on Sundays. Moreover, this was the day our parents would religiously attend churches while muslim parents would use that day to visit friends who they have no time to see on work-days. Our preference of Sunday morning to gamble meant that by the time fellow kids & other future leaders were in the church with their parents praising God, we were busy gambling with dice with our parents money and inside dilapidated buildings! Sadly, we saw nothing wrong in this then! Meanwhile, we were never caught doing this and I couldn’t be more than 10 years old as at then.
A crap game is played by throwing two dice on a bare floor or table. All players (2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) throw the die in turns and the one with the highest number per throw takes the most money down to the last man. Whoever threw the lowest numbers gets no money or less than he contributed and you may go home with nothing if you’re not good! The dice game is a game of luck and the tragedy here is that at such tender age, we were grooming ourselves to begin to depend on luck and not on God, our intellect or hardwork. We weren’t learning the major virtues of life such as benevolence to mankind, patience, contentment etc. Whoever had the most luck among the lot of the gamblers could go home with all the money belonging to us all, without a care in the world what his friends feels like. At times, fights break out when someone thinks he doesn’t deserve to lose or he has plainly been cheated out of his money. Another major ill gambling does to little children is fill them with the love of money at such a tender age.