• Monday, June 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

When lifestyles defy economic laws

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 It was a rainy Tuesday morning in late March. Businesses were anxious to open shop and workers were excited to resume work after a long Easter holiday, but the heavy rain kept many indoors except a few car owners.
When the rain finally stopped, after three hours of downpour, a man was shocked to see the car of his neighbour that drove out in the rain parked at a popular junction. He went closer thinking the car broke down. To his greatest surprise, Daddy Loveth, his neighbour who works in an insurance company, was inside a makeshift lotto kiosk to review his lotto tickets and to book new slots for games the lotto operator insisted were “sure banker”.
“So, you have money to play Baba Ijebu even at this time of the day, but none to pay for your street security levy and electricity bills. I have to get a prepaid meter,” the disappointed man said.
The lotto addict ignored his neighbour and continued on his search for winning games.
What marvelled the man was that despite the economic crunch, Daddy Loveth, a perpetual debtor who barely managed his car, still spent money on lotto.
On further investigation, Mummy Loveth revealed that her husband spent close to N5,000 everyday on lotto and had won a net of N700,000 in four years, which he also used in staking for new games.
Daddy Loveth is not alone. He is only one of the millions of Nigerians whose lifestyles defy basic rules of economics. When hard times hit, like the current economic downturn in Nigeria, it is only reasonable – and good economics too – for people to adjust their lifestyles and cut their expenses, especially frivolous, unnecessary and extravagant expenditures, and reorder their priorities in response to rising cost of living and less income flow.
There are, however, certain lifestyles that seem not to conform to this basic law of economic survival. Amid biting hardship, indulgees in these habits still ride high without flinching.
Gambling/betting
Like Daddy Loveth, many gamblers/betters have not been dissuaded by the worsening economic situation in the country as lotto centres across the country, especially in Lagos, still brim over with addicts who, rather than adjust their lifestyle, stake even more money even at the expense of their families’ needs.
BDSUNDAY investigations show that, in fact, many more young people have joined the chorus as it appears that gambling is the new employment in town. This is boosted by the fact that there are now many offline gaming and sports betting centres available across the country as well as many online betting sites.
Apart from traditional betting, such as the popular Baba Ijebu in Lagos, betting platforms have practically proliferated in Nigeria in the last couple of years, drawing in many more young people whose participation is made easier by the increasing penetration of mobile telephony and access to mobile data.
BDSUNDAY check revealed the presence of such sports betting centres as BET365NAIJA, 360BET, SUREBET247, NAIRABET, BET9JA, 1960BET, MERRYBET, BETREPUBLICANA, BETCOLONY, LOVINGBET, as well as online betting sites like www.9japredict.com, www.mybet9ja.com, www.winnersgoldenbet.com, www.winnersbet.ng, www.betcolonyafrica.com,www.parknbet.net, www.stakersden.com, www.sportybet.com, www.sportsbet.com, www.kickoffbet.com, www.nairastake.com, among numerous others.
Chisom Okanumee, a student of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, who worked part-time in a betting centre near the polytechnic until recently, told BDSUNDAY that many students were engaging in betting as a pastime, while many others are attracted by the prospect of winning it big, having seen one or two students who hit the jackpot in the past.
“It’s very risky because it is a chance game. It’s gambling. There is no much calculation or any form of analysis involved. You can only win if luck is on your side, otherwise you will keep losing,” Okanumee said.
“But it can also be very rewarding when you win. And while working at BET9JA in Owerri, I witnessed quite a couple of winnings, and it felt so good for the winners. But I don’t personally bet. I am a risk taker, no doubt, but I take only calculated risks. I don’t play that kind of chance game,” he added.
Indeed, a 2014 report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that about 60 million Nigerians between 18 and 40 years of age may be spending up to N1.8 billion on sports betting daily. According to the investigation, these gamblers commit on the average N3,000 daily on sports betting.
BDSUNDAY checks on betting centres around Lagos showed that these numbers may not have been affected by the economic downturn in the country as gamblers, especially young people, were seen trooping in and out of these centres with pieces of paper.
“Money is not an issue for a gambler. A real gambler can bet his car, his house, even his wife or his mother. A gambler is an incurable optimism; he always hopes to win, and he does not understand that times are hard,” said a betting analyst who craved anonymity.
Overflowing beer parlours
At the beer parlours, alcohol drinkers are still having a field day as a keen observer will notice growing patronage at local bars these days. Before now, weekends were usually the peak of beer drinking across bars. But BDSUNDAY investigations reveal that nowadays bars are getting considerable patronage during the weekdays despite the fact that beer is no longer cheap.
On the average, bars do not sell beer at normal rates, especially those that provide viewing centre, air conditioner or any form of comfort.
At Momentum, a popular bar in Isolo, Lagos, a bottle of beer goes for N300, while same brand is sold at N400 at another bar just opposite. Yet, some beer lovers visit nearby Felixity Hotel to drink at N500 per bottle as status symbol.
If you do a little mathematics, if patrons drink an average of three bottles each, that amounts to N900 or N1,200, excluding pepper soup and barbecue that complement it. But the three bottles amount to N1,500 in the hotel. Of course, those who claim to be ‘big boys’ go to five-star hotels where a bottle of beer goes from N1,000.
“Some patrons drink as much as six bottles each, especially during football matches. Many are combining it with red wine, but those who drink the most are those who don’t have money. They claim that drinking makes them to forget their sorrows,” an attendant at the popular Nwanyi Nteje Bar in Festac, Lagos, who simply identified herself as Nma, told BDSUNDAY.
Other alcohol lovers who cannot afford the costly beer brands go for the cheaper ones, while yet others settle for the various brands of spirits, especially bitters, laced with Fayrouz or other soft drinks.  
BDSUNDAY checks showed that there are many of these bitters drinks, most of which come very cheap and affordable. They include Alomo Bitters, Baby Oku De Man-Power Alcoholic Bitter Drink, Kerewa Bitters, Skelewu Bitters, Pakurumo Bitters, Action Bitters, Power Bitters, Maximo Bitters, Oganla Bitters, Heritage Bitters, Koboko Bitters, Ogidiga Bitters, Agbara Bitters, Kuemmerling, Dr. Iguedo’s Goko Alcoholic Bitters, Asheitu Adams Bitters, Beta Cleanser Bitters, Ruzu Herbal Bitters, Swedish Bitters, Opa Eyin Bitters, Osomo Bitters, Oroki Bitters, Washing and Setting, Kparaga, Monkey Shoulder, Kogbela, Ibile, Durosoke, Dadubule, Ogidigba, Pasa Bitters, 24/7, among others.
“A mixture of any of these bitters with Fayrouz or even Fanta gives you a very smooth taste, and with their very high alcoholic content, you will definitely get intoxicated faster than a beer drinker,” said Akin Daramola, a bar attendant in Satellite Town, Lagos.  
But do people really drink away their sorrow? Nelson Eku, a physiologist, said that drinking to drink away sorrow was coined and popularized by bar owners to stimulate patrons.
“It is a momentary relief. You get sad on realizing that more financial obligations await you on recovering from the influence of the beer that made you to feel less concerned a moment ago,” he explained.
On average, a beer drinker can save N1,000 every day, N7,000 every week, N28,000 every month and N336,000 annually from cutting his drinking or stopping entirely. But the question is, how do people whose incomes are not up to N28,000 monthly manage to sustain their beer drinking habit in these difficult times? The answer is simple: addiction that has over time forced them to sustain lifestyles that truly defy economics.
“One can afford to live in luxury when there is surplus, and frugally in austerity. Austerity is staring on our faces but people are yet to adjust. It is a habit that has over time become a lifestyle. They will always find money to drink, borrow to drink, share with others, but hardly consider cutting down on their consumption level,” Eku said.
Booming brothels
While addiction to beer drinking has become a lifestyle for some people, regular revellers are not also giving up on their visits to brothels. Despite the biting hardship, patrons of the world’s oldest profession are still doing their thing.
BDSUNDAY findings reveal that grand patrons of the ladies of the nigh still retire into the laps of some Eves in these brothels after a hard day’s job, the prevalent biting austerity in the land notwithstanding. And the women of easy virtue are still seen filing out in the dark on the streets, cocksure that there is still patronage out there.
“No matter how bad the economy is, I’ll always come here to answer the call of nature. I am not married yet, so after the stress I go through in the day time hustling for money, at least I need somebody to comfort me. This is where I come to find that solace. I have a regular customer here,” a young man of about 35 who said he’s a commercial bus driver told BDSUNDAY at one of the brothels on Old Ojo Road, near Agboju Market, Lagos.
Depending on the class of prostitutes, the location and timing, a night timeout with a prostitute, BDSUNDAY investigations show, will cost nothing less than N5,000.
BDSUNDAY took a risk of stopping by at a brothel before Ilewe Bus Stop on Ejigbo-Ikotun Road in Lagos. A prostitute who posed as Shama told our correspondent that a whole night service, professionally called till-day-break or TDB, costs N10,000. On pricing it down and pressing for consideration as a resident of Ikotun, the prostitute who is a secondary school dropout suggested a half-night stay in a room in the brothel for N5,000.
While the bargain was still going on, a car stopped by and Shama entered, telling our correspondent: “This Oga is correct, him no dey ask for price. See Mama Pikin there, she dey give N2,000 show.” Afterwards, she slammed the car door and the driver zoomed off.  
When our correspondent visited some red districts in Ojo Road, Ajegunle, Lagos, it was discovered that the brothels were still filled to the brim and overflowing as men and their catches for the night sat out nursing their beer bottles in readiness for the long night ahead.
Of course, night clubbers, big time gamblers and casino players still stake millions on casino tables even as we speak. For them, life is not complete without those things they have developed as lifestyle, and they will not let any economic situation deter them from indulging in such fun.
Considering the economic crunch, it is only those who have made visits to prostitutes a lifestyle thing that will still go for their services. But with the activities inside and outside the brothel, there is huge patronage for the services of these easy-life ladies. 
“But where do these guys get their money in these hard times?” asked one driver whose car was blocked by the car of a patron of the brothel who was finding it difficult to reverse.
Well, as rhetoric as that question sounded, the simple answer is that there is no money anywhere. The patrons of these brothels are also facing hard times, but the fact remains that their regular visit is a habit formed over time, and this habit has become a lifestyle that they cannot do without, no matter the economic realities.
“Guys must enjoy,” one patron of the night said.
CHUKS OLUIGBO & OBINNA EMELIKE