The Unbelievable Story of BABA IJEBU, Nigeria’s Most Popular Lottery Operator
In a bet there is a fool and a thief. –Irish saying.
Owo Baba Ijebu ni! Da pada!
Enjoy this song first:
Gambling is big business. In fact, it is one of the biggest businesses on earth. There is a man who made more money than Dangote with his sprawling gambling empire. He is even 80 years old and he is the 11th richest man on this planet according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. His name? Sheldon Adelson. This presumptuous billionaire made $41 million per day on average in 2013 making him the biggest dollar gainer.
No wife can endure a gambling husband, unless he is a steady winner.
-Thomas Robert Dewar
Although Nigerians like forming holier than thou attitude, Nigeria is one nation with one of the most successful gambling industries on earth with tete dens all over the nation. Every single day, countless hustling Nigerians sink millions of naira into this bustling industry. I am not just talking, I grew up just two buildings from a gambling joint. A very active gambling center. We called the owner ‘Baba Pool’ and to be fair to him, he was a very kind man. I never got involved in their pooling and bets but it was a very interesting scenario indeed and yes, I did watch them the way they stared long and hard at those small flimsy groundnut-selling-woman-destined pieces of paper with rambling numbers and obscure football clubs. Although we spent years in that neighborhood, I cannot remember anyone winning anything substantial enough to throw the entire abete (neighborhood) into a rapturous outburst of joy. But people always come to play, and they still do till today. And Baba Pool keeps making his steady money. While others too keep playing and hoping on the day luck will smile on them. But I really think luck is just mocking them. Anyways, we are going to take a look at the life of Chief KESSINGTON ADEBUTU, Nigeria’s most popular lottery operator. Many people know him as Baba Ijebu, while some others do not even know that the man actually exists and he is still very much alive. And yes, he is very very rich. Let’s go! Joor o!
GAMBLING IN NIGERIA
As I have stated earlier, many Nigerians feel they are automatic candidates of heaven but the fact is that if religious rulings are to be followed, Nigeria is one vast land of constant sinning, craving for the top spot with the likes of Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, Macau and Hong Kong. Gambling is a very lucrative industry in one of the most religious nations on earth. Just that there is no much noise about it. There are exotic casinos in Lagos, Abuja (in the 1990s, in the run-up to the 1993 presidential elections, new politicians gambled away so much in Abuja that they were called ‘casino politicians’), Ibadan, Port Harcourt and other major cities. In Lagos, which understandably has the largest number of casinos, there is one in Le Meridies, a 600-room deluxe hotel. With a casino fitted with eleven tables and 100 shiny slot machines, business is surely booming. The casino is open almost 24 hours a day and guests can enjoy all, from blackjack to bingo to roulette. There is even no entrance fee. Forget the fact that Nigeria’s principal religions frown upon gambling (20 lashes of the cane are even prescribed in the northern Sharia states of the country but who does not know whatsup?). What do you expect of a nation filled with a confusing mix of hypocrisy, corruption and religion? Gambling, betting and lottery. Federal Republic of Money, Respect and Swagger. At any rate, taxation of gambling is believed to contribute to the national economy. Enter Chief Kessington Adebutu aka Baba Ijebu, the grandmaster of Nigeria’s lottery industry. Although some casinos are owned by Lebanese businessmen, Baba Ijebu remains the most popular in the lottery business.
There is a very easy way to return from a casino with a small fortune: go there with a large one.
BACKGROUND, BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Born to Muslim parents in 1935 in Iperu-Remo, Ogun State, Sir Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu, the Baba Ijebu of Nigeria will be turning 79 this year. His father was Alhaji Folarin Adebutu while his mother was Alhaja Siliatu Adebutu. His father was a tycoon in the transport business and was also into the sales of building materials while the mother was a dealer in kerosene.
Sir Adebutu later reverted to Christianity and became a member of the Methodist Church. Married and blessed with kids, Baba Ijebu is a philanthropist of note and he is also a socialite belonging to several clubs like the Island Club, the Moderate Club of Lagos Iperu and the Premier Club of Nigeria. The one-time chairman of Naira Lottery just in November 2013 launched his Sir Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu Foundation (KAAF) and at that event, he also dedicated his twin children. The headquarters of the KAAF is an impressive seven-storey building in Iperu-Remo, Ogun State. At the event, he said:
‘At this stage in my life my desire is not what to eat, drink or about what my family will wear, but to use what God has given to me to better the lives of the less privileged in our society. I am happy to say that God has remained steadfast in His commitment to sustaining this dream over the years. I am grateful to Him for his special love and blessing, which has kept me going. One of the ways of showing gratitude to God is the erection of this new edifice as the headquarters of KAAF.’’
Each floor of the edifice is named for the seven most important people in his life and these, according to him include the following:
-Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the Executive Governor of Ogun State.
-The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo.
-The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.
-The Akarigbo of Remoland.
-The Olu of Ilaro.
-The Alaperu of Iperuland.
At the event, Governor Amosun extolled Baba Ijebu saying:
“The Almighty has endowed you with so much that you did not say you would enjoy it alone. You have been spreading it not just to the people of Ogun State alone, but to the entire Nigerian nation…I want to put it on record that truly you have done many things. Let me say again that you will still do more. Thank you for making sure that you did not forget your roots.
“If everybody follows what you are doing, I’m sure Ogun State will be the better for it. Even the naming of the edifice confirms the fact that you are not a sectional leader or elder.”
The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona also praised Baba Ijebu describing him as a rare gift to mankind while the Alake of Egbaland was also very generous in showering praises on Baba Ijebu. On hand to bless the event and pray for success was the Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde who described Baba Ijebu as a ‘practical Christian who is offering a sacrificial service to humanity’. Baba Ijebu is a notable philanthropist, giving donations to churches, mosques, schools and various organizations. He stated that his philanthropy is propelled by what his mother taught and told him. There is a Sir Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu School of Law at the Houdegbe North American University in Benin Republic while there is also the Lady Kessington Diabetic Center at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital.
HIS LOTTO BUSINESS
Adebutu is the Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of Premier Lotto Limited (PLL). A professional businessman, he has a network of commissioned agents across the country. He adheres to the rules laid down by the government concerning the lottery industry and once said concerning the directive of the Lagos State government to lotto operators:
I do not want to go through a Black Maria so I have to comply. If they are not ready to obey, they should leave the business and return our sales terminals.
Kessington Adebutu started the business as a game man in the 1960s. As far back as 1963, he was already a pool agent. His business empire now covers not only lotteries but also casinos and pools. He said that he had no capital and he was interested in a business that required little or no capital and what popped up to his mind was to become a pool agent since all he needed was a table and a pen. He stated again that with his best friend, the late Chief Solomon Adebayo Ayoku and they dominated the African continent. From there, they diversified and invested in other areas like agriculture, entertainment, lotto, estate management and manufacturing. He later got the concession for the Gateway Hotels, Abeokuta for 25 years.
BABA IJEBU THE FAMILY MAN
He married his third and youngest wife, Chief (Mrs) Temitope Adebutu (The Yeye Oge of Iperuland) in 2005. It was not until the 8th of September, 2013 that she gave birth to a set of twins (boys) in Germany. An elated Baba Ijebu would do the dedication of the kids in grand style. In 2010, he was said to have kicked out his second wife, Yinka upon discovering fetish items.
THE BABA IJEBU BUSINESS TODAY
There is the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (which visited the Lotterie Nationale du Niger in 2011 to learn more about their successful public campaigns in order to encourage Northern Nigerians to participate, many of whom had refused considering it sinful). If you want to really have an idea of how crazy people are about this lotto, watch this clip of a Yoruba movie in which some young men believe a mentally-challenged man has the secret numbers to winning the lottery:
HOW DID HE COME ABOUT THE NAME ‘BABA IJEBU’
Explaining through the smiles, Baba Ijebu said that although ‘Baba Ijebu’ is not the name that his parents gave him, it was a nickname from his satisfied customers and it stuck. He also added that since he is also a proud native of the Ijebu province, the name makes sense.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
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4- Treaty between the U.S. and the Federal Republic of Nigeria on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters (Treaty doc. 102-26): hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, One Hundred Second Congress, second session, May 20, 1992, Volume 4.
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8. Nigerian at 47, 1960-2007: prominent achievers in Nigeria, Volume 1 by Prince AGA Ladigbolu.