I had my “Christmas haircut” yesterday. It was done by Okpashi Ramsey Abiola and it took place at his roadside setup. How did I get to know him? Well, one Saturday afternoon many months ago, I desperately needed to have a haircut. My usual haunts were, for unknown reasons, all closed and I was scheduled to travel the next day. I went to buy some things at a certain area of Lagos and afterwards asked for directions to the nearest barbing salon. There was none around but a passerby commented: “there’s a barber down the road, if you don’t mind being under a tree…”
What was supposed to be a one-off thing turned into something else. Abiola had some customers already in line so I joined them. I noticed that one of the people who was there for the first time was so impressed with the haircut that he asked for the barber’s number. I had to do the same when he finished with my hair; I liked what he had done. Since then, whenever I have the opportunity, I pass by to have my hair cut by him. To sit down and have a haircut without the barber asking you first how you want him to do it is always reassuring!
Abiola hails from Gakem in Cross River State. He had to leave school when he got to JS1 because his family couldn’t afford to continue paying his school fees. His father had often complained that his mates were learning some trade while in school while he was just playing… He started his apprenticeship in barbing in 2010 without even informing his dad. He still recalls that the person who taught him died from a road traffic accident while returning from a funeral. Abiola was meant to have gone with him but had to stay back because he had to do something for his elder brother.
He left the village soon after and spent the following years in Edo, Ekiti and Benue States, hustling to make ends meet. He was mainly involved in farming. Eventually he ended up in Lagos and had to go back to barbing. By then, his skills had become rusty and he had to do a quick “refresher training” for six months with another barber before he could start off on his own. He says that some days (especially the latter part of the week) are better for his business since more people have their hair cut on those days. Sometimes he has to go to the houses of some of his clients to cut their hair there.
Abiola was baptized as a baby but his baptismal card can no longer be found. He goes to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Church close to his place of work, for Mass on Sundays but is not yet a communicant. I’ve encouraged him to get a replacement baptismal card from his home parish. Meanwhile, he knows (since I offered) that I am available for any help he needs in his spiritual life. Since he spends a good amount of time at work, I’ve promised to send him links to recorded classes given by a priest of Opus Dei on different topics of Catholic teaching so that he can learn some things when he is a bit freer. We will have more opportunities to talk in the future and with Whatsapp and Facebook at hand, exchange of information is just a few clicks away.
If I were a kid, the only things missing now for my Christmas outfit to be complete would be the new Christmas clothes and the obligatory plastic glasses and wristwatch that we used to wear with so much swag!
May God continue to bless the work of the hands of all those who, like Abiola, are doing their best to eke out a living in this tough times. May he continue to bring out the best looks of all those who make use of his services. You can be one of them too: just put yourself in contact with him!
Merry Christmas in advance to everyone.