By Anote Ajeluorou
Man is a creation of acute insecurity. That is why he relies on the help of forces, sometimes supernatural, sometimes plain ordinary, beyond outside of himself just to get by. It is this interventionist reliance on outside forces that breeds in him hope for a better tomorrow so he could realise the secret dreams he constantly nurtures. This is what Ahmed Yerima conjures up in his pidgin play Lottery Ticket that was recently staged at the grass lawn theatre of The Ethnic Heritage Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, by Joshua Alabi-led Kininso Concept Production.
One easy way of getting lifted out of poverty could be through gambling just as it can also mire one in deep poverty as well. But lottery is usually promoted as a harmless gambling habit - raised hope for the dream money one cannot ordinarily make at a work-a-day enterprise. And so Landlord (Opeyemi Dada), Baba Tailor (Yemi Adebiyi), Yellow Fever (Oladapo Jubril), Danger (Julius Obende) and Mama Lizi (Angela Peters), are all addicted to this instant passport out of poverty. Who wins this one-in-a-lifetime instant wealth jackpot?
Mama Lizi works hard at her restaurant with her daughter, Lizi (Bodunrin Afolabi), helping out, but Lizi is the village belle at the centre of Landlord and Danger’s erotic imagination. Landlord’s wife had abandoned him for a soldier; Landlord wants Lizi to inject new life and blood into his old veins. He needs to win to be able to stake a proper claim to Lizi. Danger is the regular street urchin called area boy who ‘collects’ what does not belong to him if he approaches you nicely and you refuse to oblige. Lizi is his woman, but he has another. He needs to win to be able to send her to Abuja and set her up in a trade, but he doesn’t want to leave Lagos. It’s the headquarters of area boys where business is booming.
Tailor is diagnosed of so many illnesses it’s a wonder he is still alive. He’s deeply in debt and needs to settle his hospital bills and continue his treatment. He needs the lottery money more than anyone else. Mama Lizi is not left out in the jackpot dream. She wants to move to Ajegunle and set up a shop she can call her own that would give her business proper leverage away from greedy Lagos landlords.
The stage is set. When the result is announced, Tailor wins. But at that moment of shouting out his joy, he collapses and faints. But his friends take him for dead. They are scared but act fast; Mama Lizi doesn’t want a dead man at her restaurant, so they prop him up as having fallen asleep after a heavy meal. Negotiations about who inherits Baba Tailor’s lottery ticket ensue.
Landlord offered Tailor N50 to buy drink, but he turns round and claims it was a loan and so he is entitled to half the share of the N1 million jackpot. Others protest it, but Landlord isn’t moved. Mama Lizi also stakes her claim to the money since Baba Tailor died in her shop. Lizi is aghast; she cannot believe her mother is making such claim over a dead man’s fortune. She proposes the ticket be given to Tailor’s wife and children; her mother is furious. She disowns Lizi instantly. Danger finally stakes his claim and wants the ticket to himself aloney. A scuffle ensues; in the process, Mama Lizi hits him in the crotch. He, too, dies, and is propped up alongside Baba Tailor.
That is when police ‘Sajent’ (Aniefiok Inyang) comes into the restaurant in a manhunt for Danger for beating up Baba Tailor’s apprentice, Lasisi; he also wants Baba Tailor for questioning as well. When he finds the two slumped over in a chair, he gets suspicious. However, with N10,000 he promises not to hang the deaths on the heads of Landlord, Mama Lizi and Lizi. But just when he returns to pick up the bodies, Baba Tailor wakes and demands for his lottery ticket. And they all freeze in fear; their greed is thwarted, as the rightful owner has come to claim his lottery win.
Although a hilarious play and the actors did their best to lift it, it isn’t Yerima’s best play. It drags ever so often for the most part and the comedy doesn’t always come off as intended. Danger over-exaggerates his part. Or is it the pidgin that is the stumbling block? Would it have fared better had it been written in proper English? Just perhaps!