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Contributor: Kwaku
Illustrator: Femi Adetunji

So you?re interested in making a killing on the National Lottery, eh? Firstly, let me tell you that I have no special formula or permutations to give, neither do I have any divine revelation nor a sure-fire hunch to impart to you. However, you could save yourself some money by taking heed of the tale that I?m about to tell.

On a sunny day last month I was approached by an elderly Black man - well into his sixties, I reckon - along London?s Oxford Street. This shabbily-dressed man with white cracks in his poorly oiled hands seemed to have good reason for approaching me in this busy and impersonal thoroughfare.

"Do you play the National Lottery?" he enquired

I smiled hesistantly, taken aback at the line of questioning whilst I made my mind up about my interrogator.

"Young man," he pressed, "I asked you do you play the National Lottery? Yes or no?"

"Yes," I answered somewhat sheepishly. Having only played it twice previously, it was certainly not an important pastime of mine.

"I?ve been sent by the Lord to give you these numbers," he explained, as he produced a piece of paper on which there were photocopied dot-matrix printed numbers. He explained that I was to stake the five lines of numbers on the left hand column that week and if I didn?t win, I was to stake the other set the following week. He scribbled a name and phone number which he said was to show his genuineness.

I immediately sensed a con, so once I had taken the paper, I decided to question him further. Being a journalist, I could also sense the making of an interesting story here. But before I could begin my interrogation, my would-be benefactor beat me to it.

"Now, if you?d care to make a little donation?" he asked in a somewhat stern voice.

Well, a pound for this story should suffice, I reasoned as I dropped my coin into his harsh, dry hands.

"So how many people are you going to give these numbers to?" I asked him, realising that I couldn?t be the only chosen one. Besides, the manner in which the numbers were printed reminded me of the printout of previous winning numbers one can get from the Lottery terminals. Could this man think people were so dumb to part with money for that? I had, but only because I was chasing a story, which would more than recompense my measly investment.

"God has sent me to give the numbers to three young, Black people, including yourself, on Oxford Street," he responded.

Being a Christian, I don?t expect people to use the God?s name in vain, even though people including some priests do, but somehow I decide to give my man the benefit of the doubt. Jesus and many great prophets of both Christianity and other religions came from lowly stock, so I think I'd better not write off this shabby, cataractic eyed man just yet.

I bring to his attention the antagonism of Jamaican Church leaders to the Lotto in that country. Did God approve of the Lottery? I query. "Oh yes. The Lord approves of the National Lottery because that?s the only way to help Black people to help themselves, because he knows even if you work all your life, you?ll never make as much as winning the jackpot."

I tell him I would be most sad if this

is a con, because all he would be doing is getting Black people to put ?10 unnecessarily into the National Lottery coffers. He assures me it?s not and mentions that a Ghanaian chap he helped was one of the multiple jackpot winners. He had won a six figure sum and promptly gone back home to set up a business.

"So how much did he give you?" I asked

"I?m not really about that. I am 74 years old, what do I need money for? The Lord wants me to help others."

It was hard to believe, seeing he looked like he could do with some money to smarten himself up, not to mention oiling those hard hands of his. Incidentally, I happen to come from Ghana too, and he reminded me of a group in Accra called ?Lotto Doctors'. These people offer winning combinations and sell ?specialist publications' that purport to show ways of winning the Lotto. But you only have to look at their poor appearance to wonder why - if they knew the winning numbers - hadn?t they used them to improve their impoverished existence?

"Look, you?ve got my number there," my old man says, trying to move on.

"I?ve given it to you so that you can call me to say if I am false or whether I am a man of God."

I press the religious issue one more time to make him guilty if he?s a con. I ask him if he?s religious. Yes he says, he?s part of an east London group who follow an African religion who worship Onga he informs me. I reveal I am a journalist and I hope I can publicise his work and his obscure religious sect. He seems quite happy about that.

On the Saturday after our first meeting, I?m of two minds as to whether to make the effort to go out just to play the numbers. At nearly 7pm, I leave the house, half hoping to miss the deadline. Despite the huge queue, I manage to stake my first instalment of ?5. A few days later I discover my numbers made no showing. I sensibly saved myself some money by not not staking again whilst dreading possible screaming headlines like, "How I Missed Divinely-inspired Jack pot Numbers!" I rang the number once but got no reply. Save yourself a tenner by not being taken in be a benevolent-looking old man bearing Lottery winning numbers.
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