Just Human

May 22, 2010

How N100,000 changed the life of a street barber

Uche Alagbaso doing his thing says:...Things are rough but pleasant

Uche Alagbaso, 32, a barber, had been hoping that one day, fortune would smile on him. He opened a shop owner 11 years ago hoping for success.  Alagboso won a sum of N100,000 at the just concluded  WAHL Barbing competition held at the Eko Hotel & Suits, Lagos.

According to him, “I heard the jingle on the radio and I decided to participate. This is my first time to participate in this competition since it started about 18 years ago. The entry came up in March and April and here I am with a sum of N100,000. “

Alagboso said things had been rough and unpleasant, especially when he picked the profession 11 years ago. With the expectation that things would turn in his favour, he shunned all negative advice that wouldn’t let him be what he wants to be.

His parents tried to discourage him from his barbing but his mind to become a professional and international barber of his generation was made up.

“I left my hometown just to earn a living here in Lagos. People say Lagos is like London but unfortunately, life has become so miserable that I hardly eat three square meal. This is the only  profession I enjoy doing. When I started this profession, I’ve always believed that God would shower His mercies on me. “I’ve been faced with different challenges.

I’ve lived all my life here in Victoria Island, no friends, no relatives. I was living fro hand to mouth. But I thank God for giving me the ability to be a man today”, Uche said.

My disability is my problem— Olayinde
For Tunji Olayinde, 27, physically challenged, it was a day of joy as he won the sum of N50,000 at the competition.  He had been participating in the competition since it began 18 years ago but had not won any of the prizes or gifts because of his condition.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that Olayinde learnt barbing for 18 years. He started at the age of 9  because of his condition.

Asked how the incident happened, he said, “I travelled with my parents when the incident happened. We were all inside the bus when the accident occurred. I was five years old then. Unfortunately, I was the only one who sustained injuries. My parents had taken me to different hospitals. It was the drugs and other things administered on me, I was told, that led to the palsy of both my left leg and hand.

“Since the incident in 1988, I’ve been going through different problems, especially now that I’m older. This condition has deprived me of many opportunities. A lot of people wouldn’t want to associate with me because of the condition.

Uche Alagbaso

Nobody wants to have a nice haircut in my shop because of this condition. At times, I would have to go the extra mile of begging people to come to my shop. They never believed in me.  With this condition, I hardly realise N1, 500  per week. It has also hindered my chances of getting a wife. No woman wants to marry a disabled.

“It affected my education. I couldn’t further my education because my parents were not financially buoyant. I am the 5th child in the family of five. My parents stay in Oke Odo, Pleasure area of Lagos State.

The truth is that since I’ve been participating in this competition, I’d not won a prize, but today, I thank God who gave me the privilege. I’m a Lagosian by birth but my parents hailed from Ogun State”, he added.

I want to be an international barber— Wemimo female barber
In Nigeria, barbing is associated with men but when a women is picking up the same profession, the first question that comes to mind is that what is the motivational factor?  For, Miss Omolasoye Wemimo, 22 coming into the barbing profession was a passion she has been nursing while she was young. She was the only female barber amongst 24 barbers who contested at the just concluded barbing competition held in Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos.

According to her, “I took after this profession after I had completed my National Diploma in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State in Business Administration. The profession which I started about three years ago.

Asked why she came into barbing, she said, “There is need to explore into some professions that seemed to be masculine in nature. I believe my potentials will be more appreciated if I become a professional barber.

I know that there are challenges to be faced with because the profession is not feminine nature but I’m ready to face it. A female barber is not common, rather ladies love the hair and style and that is the reason why I want to be amongst the few female barbers in the country. It is not only hair and style that should be common in Nigeria. A lot of men have gone into hair and style. So, it will be interesting to see more of female barbers,” she said.

Wemimo’s parents did not encourage her but had decided to move on with her life. I know the potentials I possess. So, I had to persist and convince them on my passion, she explained.

For her, embarrassment and harassment are her expectations. “I’ve been faced with lots of harassment, especially from people. Some people wouldn’t want me to work for them because they prefer the male touch to that of the female.

Some people would think, I was going to destroy their hair. So, they rather allow the men. After much conviction, they comply and allow me. For me, I believe people should believe in themselves. There is no point rendering yourself as cheap for men in the name of money”, she advised.

We will make barbing a benefitting—Chief Ngozi Mbadiwe, C.E.O  J.Green Mbadiwe & Sons
For the organisers of the competition, through Dr. Ifeyinwa Nwakwesi, chairman of the occasion, “It is to promote the scientific way of barbing and ensure that people have  nice haircuts without contracting any infection. It is also an avenue to improve on the sale of WAHL hair clippers so that people can use their own hair clippers without contracting infection.

Since the programme kicked off 18 years, it has been used to help the common barber on the street. It is also used to checkmate the barbing profession and the industry in particular. And also encourages people, especially the young men to pursue their God’s given destiny in a professional way.  These barbers have been trained by WAHL company.”

Chief Victor Ngozi Mbadiwe, chief executive officer of J.Green Mbadiwe & Sons said the competition would allow barbers to be self reliant and stable in their life endeavours.

Comrade Matthew Udi, President of Lagos State Barbers’ Association, said the programme was designed to promote barbers.

He however lamented the advent effect of contaminated instruments by barbers saying that the association would not relent in ensuring that perpetrators are brought to book. “We want to ensure that no barber uses other clipper other than WAHL clippers. The situation in the country has encouraged lots of fake products into country and we are ready to tackle that problem.

The Lagos State government donated sterilising machines to barbers. And we have organised several seminars to sensitise barbers on the usage of sterilising clippers. At least, a barber must have more than three clippers. If you are working with one, you put the other into a sterilising machine. We have a monitoring unit.

The association has helped in the use of sterilising machine. We made it compulsory to be part of each members’ instruments. We are working on the standardization of the union and the proposal is now with the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Barbing is a profession and anyone who is interested is expected to go and learn it, either in a professional barbing school or any barbing shop. Anyone who is interested should come to the appropriate association where he or she would be guided and given all the necessary details. And for shop owners, the association will definitely accredit the person as long as his or her shop is up to the requireed standard by the association.

The monitoring team ensures that it monitors barbers across the states.
Anyone who is financially disabled should not hesitate to consult the association for loan after which he or she ‘ pays back by instalment.