By Emmanuel Unah
CALABAR—EIGHTY-TWO years old Papa Okon Etim, who has spent half a century of his life in pool betting and forecasting at Calabar, Cross- River State, said that he tossed away the money he made from the tricky business in his ambition to make more, moaning that at the twilight of his life, he has nothing to show.
Papa Etim, who resides at No 8 Punch Street in the business district of Calabar, an area that was once occupied by British colonial masters and Irish missionaries, said life was unfair to him.
Of all the trades and professions that the colonialists introduced, including law, medicine, and architecture and so on, he said pool betting and forecasting attracted him because it brought instant money and he got engrossed in it until today.
In fact, over half a century later, he is still practising it and yet he claimed he made fortune from it, which he threw away while trying to make more fortune.
How pool betting came to Calabar
The 82- year- old man said he started pool betting years before Nigeria gained independence and that was the time the major stakeholders in the business were British and Scottish businessmen and has continued till this day when the main actors in the pool business are now Nigerians.
“British people, who lived here in Calabar brought this business and one of them taught me and I started when everybody beginning from the agents to promoters and betters were all white and as at then, it was very lucrative because winning was easy, but now with our people on top, their antics are above us and you can hardly win anything tangible,” he said.
I lost my money
According to him, during those days, he won large sums of money several times, but the attraction to win more money made him to plough back his winnings into staking for higher sums, but more often than not, ended up losing all the money.
“I have won thousands of naira during the time money was money, but I always put back the money in the hope of winning more money, but often I ended up losing everything and this time around winning is very difficult. The much I have won in recent times is 10.000.00, which cannot even pay my debts,” he bemoaned.
Can’t afford 3 square meals a day
Asked if the dilapidated one- storey building he lives in is his house and what other assets he has, he shook his head, saying he resides in the place on rent and has nothing in terms of assets.
“What you see inside this shop is all I have got and I cannot even eat three good meals in a day, but I have faith that one day I will win big and retire from this business,” he asserted.
He lectured our reporter on a maze of what it took to win a bet and how much money a winner gets depending on the sum he stakes.
“If you play three games on this list of 49 teams and the three teams play draw, you have much money; if you staked 10.000,00 you get 100,000.00 and if you staked 1,000 you get 100,000 and my commission is 10 percent of the sum staked,” Papa Etim said.
He said that the modern Nigeria Bet was a reformation of the old pool system with the use of computer, but he prefers the old pool because he was not conversant with what the new staking obtains.
“I am not familiar with the new system but the old one that I am doing is okay. I cannot even hire a sales girl because the commission of N100 per N1,000 staking I get, cannot take me and my family, not to talk of paying a staff,” he added as he snorted.