Easy money

Most mornings, I meet just about the same squatters sitting outside their uncompleted buildings, shirts unbuttoned or draped over their bare chests.  A few vigorously scrub away with chewing sticks of various lengths. The routine is the same: a smile, a wave of the hand, a greeting. Response. On some days, however, all I get is an absent-minded nod without the courtesy of a look. The circled portions of the ever-present lotto newspaper are obviously a lot more interesting.

Lotto used to be a weekend activity, complete with a TV show for the live draw. I still remember the crowd in attendance cheering wildly in anticipation when a number was held up. “Banker, banker!” they would scream. My memory fails as to whether any such was ever picked out. Sure, there was mid-week lotto, but the Saturday one was the main event. Lotto Bingo, VAG West, Asare Original Pay All and other private operators had their time in the sun, till the state declared them illegal. Dreams were shattered regularly on any given Saturday, yet like ants to sweet poison, the patrons made their way back to the same lotto kiosks that impoverished them, still with hopes of striking it rich by guessing a minimum of two numbers between 1 and 90.

One afternoon a few years ago, I waded through Tema Station in search of a car going to Korle-Bu. At the time, I wasn’t very familiar with the unlabelled lots. Indeed the whole place looked like a tornado had ripped right through. No order. Politely, I walked up to two middle-aged men to ask for directions. I should’ve known better than to disturb anyone with a lotto paper in hand.

They were busily counting numbers in an order which naturally made no sense to me. It looked like they were analyzing winning numbers which from years back. The paper was in poor shape and had nothing but rows and rows of numbers. One was mumbling inaudibly to the other, who nodded with rapt attention, though with a somewhat confused look on his face. A teacher and his pupil. All I wanted was to get to Korle-Bu in peace.

Their expression was one of impatience, for I had rudely interrupted their intellectual discourse on probability and permutation. With a fling of their hands, they sent me off in one direction, far away from where I would get to know the Korle-Bu trotros were parked. How dare I get in the way of their being millionaires?

I don’t know whether it is only in Ghana that we waste time taking apart the history of lottery numbers, but we believe we should have a hand in our own destinies. It can’t just be guesswork. Where’s the fun in that? Lotto champions choose the numbers they believe will change their fortunes overnight, and they work hard at it. It’s not uncommon to see drivers and bookmen at the lorry parks predicting the next numbers. Neither is it strange for many a taxi driver in traffic to wait patiently at a red light, whiling away the time with his lotto paper.

Wherever I have been in this country, some things have been constant: one popular drinking spot and a lotto kiosk. The closer to each other, the better. A man sits in his kiosk all day, a small notepad – with carbon paper – strategically placed. His radio plays music or a political shouting match in the heat of the day. Outside the kiosk, with varying competencies in chalk art on a blackboard, are the last numbers to have dropped. Then, there’s one big number. This is one half of the “two sure” for the week. No way is he going to give you the other one for free. A small tip will give you the other half. Just stake big and rake in the cash. After all, wouldn’t you expect a higher measure of success from someone who has spent majority of his day scratching his head with a pen, staring intently at winning numbers since pre-Independence, spotting trends not visible to the untrained eye?

As we headed out of Tema Station into the rush hour High Street traffic, I took a look at Brennan Hall, the single-storey building of the Department of National Lotteries that used to be filled every Saturday at 5pm as the life-changing numbers were picked. Right next to it is the multi-storied Fortune House, the edifice lotto stakers of various economic muscle helped the government to build, a temple to their god.

Gone are the days of lotto doctors, armed with chalk and blackboard preaching their gospel. Today, the lotto writer is the main guy. But then, I ask myself, almost like in the lotto advert of the nineties, “why is the lotto writer not rich?”


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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25 Responses to Easy money

  1. iXose Enakak says:

    …..because he is a good Samaritan, “thais” all…

  2. Ama says:

    I’m a bit confused. What day do the Lotto numbers get called, now? And what has happened to Brennan Hall? I used to trek past it regularly going to and fro between the “Cocoa Affairs” court buildings and the Supreme Court compound. Them were the bad old days!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Oh, there’s a draw everyday now. Yep, more chances to be visited by Lady Luck. Brennan Hall, though, is still there. The whole area’s got carvings in front of it showing people winning money and stuff. The lucky few.

  3. Hammers-for-life says:

    there’s a chap I work with who keeps “working”. And when I asked him if he’s ever had it right, he gave me this strange look accompanied with the words “if at first you don’t succeed ……….”

  4. Franklin Eleblu says:

    I never understood why they bothered to do permutations and combinations and patronize the consultancy services of lotto doctors. The probability of “permed” numbers dropping are as good as the probability of any other two numbers dropping. So why not just choose and two and present them as your final numbers? Someone explained to me before but I still didn’t get it.

    Anyway, another great piece, as usual. Thx

  5. lotto- a neverending exercise in futility.

  6. sefakor says:

    I remember those days when they used to play “sika y3 mogya” before the saturday draw. I love that advert about “why is the lotto doctor not rich”.

  7. Maab says:

    Is it really luck or what? Some time back, i was at a meeting and one of the side attractions was to be a lucky draw—not exactly lotto but something like it. You choose a number which is written on two pieces of paper one of which is folded and dropped into this huge pot and the other one given you to keep until drawtime ,with promises of attractive prizes ,should one’s number be drawn. A good number of folks went for numbers ,copies of which, in the sight of everyone, were dutifully dropped in the pot. Not particularly keen on these things, partly because chances of winning is never too encouraging, a group of us gals were just sitting enjoying our own juicy nkonkonsa when one of the organising guys came to our table and handed some papers to all four of us at the table muttering softly under his breadth—“I want you girls to win something.” At draw time were all called into the room. After stirring the pot with all their might, independent people were called from the floor to come forward and pick out ten winning numbers. Now guess what!! Wonder of wonders!!! All the numbers given to me and my friends were drawn!! My excitement and shouting as I raced to the podium to collect my prize should have told everybody that there was some kuduudu ,but luckily no one suspected anything.I have spent many days trying to figure out just how the whole hoax was worked out without any success;;and our good friend had left before I could get hold of him to quizz him. Can anybody help unravel the puzzle?? And the question is —is there any luck in these so called lucky events afterall?? Lotto and all!! Hmmmm your guess is as good as mine.

  8. Raj says:

    another good piece…
    its been awhile since i dropped my comment and i just could not go away from this one. Now here is the big question for me…..why does a white man walk to the lotto agent “shades” his number and hopes he would be lucky but my people will have to “work” lotto, days on end and still not get even close to the winning number. Someone just tell these people it is a game of chance or better, a game of hoaxes as we just had a first hand info from MAAB,s comment. So you either make it easy by choosing any probable numbers or just walk away cos after all the LOTTO DOCTOR HAS NOT GOTTEN RICH….. YET.

  9. Guy says:

    lets be frank. Religion, fanatism in sports and of course the faith in lotteries makes no sense. You just follow because you want to.
    People get rich of it. Best believe that

  10. nkwantabisa says:

    I enjoyed the short story..the lotto show was the time i could listen to some of my favorite high-life musicians..such as Jewel Akah and co..kudos to the lotto writter..

  11. Dee says:

    I totally agree with Raj. My dad once won the lottery (not the big jackpot)…something like $200 with one of them scratch and win cards. It was pure chance, no ‘working’ involved. I remember we had a barbeque by the beach that weekend 🙂

    I love this phrase “like ants to sweet poison”. Strong imagery!

    • Raj says:

      simple scratch and win if you are lucky. i bet you did enjoy the barbeque cos after all easy money is for easy spending too….ini?

  12. Sis says:

    Cool piece!

  13. Lotto doctors, lotto wizards, jack pot fanatics hahaha, they are everywhere not only in Ghana. People spend a lot on betting on horses which is also another form of lottery.

  14. What are the strong bankers of vag west lotto?

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