By EBUN SESSOU
At 24, Al-Hassan Mohammed, a Ghanaian, popularly known as, Classic came to Nigeria in search of greener pasture. He was optimistic that his desires would come to pass and that his mission would be fruitful. He wouldn’t give a chance for distraction of any kind, and so, he embarked on a lonely journey. He came to Nigeria without his family members, wife and children.
And what could be described as “survival of the fittest”, he started his life in Nigeria as a barber under the CMS bridge in Lagos. Perhaps, he was fulfilling one of the scriptural texts, Zachariah 4 vs 10A which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for they shall rejoice”.
He started his barbing profession with the sum of seventy naira and today, he is an enterprenuer. He has trained many young people on the job. Currently, he is building his school in Ghana, all thanks to the noble profession.
In an encounter with Saturday Vanguard, he explained why he came into the profession and what he has been able to achieve for himself.
“I came to Nigeria in 1986 in search of white collar job. This was during the regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda. I graduated as an accountant and a certified book keeper. I thought that with my level of education and exposure, I could secure a job in Nigeria. I went through all the nooks and crannies of Lagos in search of job but all efforts to no avail.
“I was frustrated and didn’t know what to do. People that could have helped me turned me down and so, life was miserable.
“And because, it was a taboo for me to engage in some violent acts, I picked up this barbing profession. At first, it was ridiculous. There was not enough money to kick off. There was no money to rent a shop. “I became a wanderer on the streets of Lagos looking for where to work. Then, I got to the CMS bridge where someone introduced me to those who were managing the place.
“There, I was given a space to start up my business and I invested all the money on me into it. I started with the sum of seventy naira. I rented a space under the bridge and used the rest of the money to purchase some tools including blades, hand clippers, powder, combs, scissors, chairs, mirror amongst others.
“At first, it was tedious because I had to convince people that I am an expert in the profession and so, I was rendering both free and bonus services to people. It took a while, before I could stabilise but I was optimistic.
“I proceeded to acquire more knowledge on the profession so as to boost my career and so I became an expert.
“Today, I have trained so many young people who are now experts on their own. Some of them have traveled out of the country and are living comfortable”, he said.
Asked why he didn’t bring his family with him to Nigeria, he said, “I was just 24 years old, a young man who was full of life. I wanted to know what it was to be independent. Although, I was married, I wanted to give my family the best of life.
“I know what it is to be poor, I don’t want my children to go through what I had gone through. And so, I came to Nigeria to get the best of life and I thank God that I am fulfilled. This is my 26th year in the profession, I give glory to God.
On why he couldn’t go back to Ghana to start up the barbing profession, he said, “Life in Ghana is good but because of the population in Nigeria, I decided to stay in Nigeria. This business is lucrative and profitable than what is obtainable in Ghana. I have plans to go back to Ghana because I have a project at hand. I am building a school in Ghana although it is not easy to build a standard school. It takes determination and lots of money to own a standard school in Ghana.
Acquisition of land in Ghana is easy provided one has the money. It is more affordable than what is in this country. Anyone with fifty thousand naira can acquire a land in Ghana and I have acquired the land, right now, I am in the building process.
I have been living in this country for the past 26 years and I have no regrets whatsoever. Nigerians are respectful provided you reciprocate the same gesture on them.
Asked about the price he paid to own a shop in a popular place like CMS, he said, “I am a man of honour and respect. For 26 years, I had no cause to engage in physical combat with people and that is what is required of you.
“I do my job with all sense of dignity and I respect customers’ opinion. Since I started this business, I have been using one blade on one man. I don’t use clipper so as to prevent contraction of contagious diseases. I choose to use blade for convenience. I only use manual or automatic clipper based on request by customers.
“ It is cheap to have a nice cut in my shop depending on the individual. I have people of high calibre who patronise me. And that is why I chose to be called Classic ultimate. I don’t condole any act of indiscipline in my shop and everybody knows me for that.
On what it takes to have a shop under the bridge he said, “Life under bridge has been interesting. It depends on the individual. Anyone who wouldn’t accommodate discipline must be disciplined in return. I can live with different people from different backgrounds. I am a peace loving man, I don’t appreciate cruelty within my environment and that is my principle and I don’t keep grudges.
“I am acquainted with this job and that is where I derive my satisfaction now. At my age, there is limit to the amount of stress I can engage in.”
Asked on the challenges of living without his family in Nigeria, he said, “Out of sight is not out of mind. The distance between Nigeria and Ghana is just a stone throw and I don’t have any problem living alone in Nigeria. Communication has also helped in building the bond. I visit my family on a regular basis. I have a wife and she is everything to me and I don’t intend to get a second wife. I cannot stop this profession because it is lucrative and profitable. I intend to inculcate it into my schooling business. I can’t do without this barbing profession. This job gave me a new life and today, I am comfortable.”
On profit made so far, he said, “It is difficult to state the exact profit but I thank God but I still need more money to move on”.
Lamenting the challenges, he said, “Presently, housing in Nigeria is expensive. An individual can use the same amount of money in renting a house in Nigeria to build a befitting house in Ghana. A jobless man in Nigeria is dead. And that is what the economy has caused.
“Things are no longer the same as it used to be in the past. People are no longer concerned when it comes to looking good. There is no money and everybody is managing.”
On how he entertains his customers, he said, “I have a transistor radio that keeps the environment lively. We listen to news on a daily basis. I started using transistor about ten years ago. And to complement my business, I also engage in charging phone batteries”, he concluded.