MOHAMMED Taoheed writes,

When Nasir ‘El-Okene’ Hassan, aged 24, learnt, in July 2018, that he would leave his hometown to serve as an apprentice in another state, he beamed with joy. Three days after arriving at Zaria, the metropolitan capital of Kaduna State, he was taken to a Hausa building manager who owned an aluminum company where he started learning “how to turn steels into beautiful pans to serve as covers for houses or design different templates which would later fit into spaces of windows or doors for new houses”.

Unknown to him, his passion would be short-lived. The deafening sound of the machinery diminished his zeal for the work.

“Immediately, I called my brother and told him frankly that I’m not interested in learning anything again,” he recalled. 

However, his brother encouraged him, noting it was too early to lose interest in the work. 

Weeks later, Hassan was working on a material with his seniors when iron filings got into his eyes and nearly blinded him. The incident made his brother realise that a change of vocation was on the cards for his sibling, and he suggested a switch to barbing.

 A LIFE-CHANGING TRANSITION

For about three years, Hassan was under the tutelage of another master. However, unlike at the former’s, he learnt the art of cutting hair, which comes with no disturbance. He was comfortable there because with a clipper, glass, towel and a chair, “you can make fine cuts for angels and saints.”

Hassan, who hails from the Ebira tribe of Kogi State, said his humble background denied him the luxuries life held in its shelves. Howbeit, luck smiled at him when a childhood friend invited him to manage a shop in Sokoto.

“At first, I was afraid of the security situation but since I’ve had a similar experience in Kaduna, I made up my mind. Ever since I started working here, I’ve achieved a lot of things that I didn’t think I’d ever get in my life,” he reminisced.

“I was not fully equipped with the knowledge until I came to Sokoto. I was able to better my art through practice.”

Hassan owns a shop at the Jubril Aminu Hostel Mini Mart on the Fodiyo varsity main campus.

Asides barbing, Hassan is a fine poet. He notes that “the sky could never be your limit if you have the heart.”

“MY CRAFT LED ME BACK TO SCHOOL”

Hassan had never thought of returning to school, not because he couldn’t keep up but because of financial constraints. Upon arrivng Sokoto, the person whom his childhood friend connected him with explained that his shop was in a school environment.

“The guy told me that he is studying Botany here in UDUS and that the shop is inside the school. So, from working on different students’ hair right here on campus to interacting with others in the environment, I got the muse to go back to school.” 

Early in 2020, Hassan sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) and secured admission to study Political Science in the prestigious Usmanu Danfodiyyo University, Sokoto State.

LIFE IS NOT A BED OF ROSES 

Hassan needs to stay awake until 1:00 in the midnight. His chores take so much of his time that he eventually falls asleep from fatigue. 

Hassan’s life manifests the ‘early to bed, early to rise’ aphorism, as he admitted that sleeping at late hours causes him to slumber during most of his morning classes.

“The fact that it is in the school environment, I tend to have many customers in the night. Before I bathe, cook and read, the time is not on my side again and I have to wake up early for the morning classes. If I’m not in class, I’m always in my shop.

“It has actually helped me in financing my school activities, I gathered half of my exorbitant tuition fees myself and it has relieved my family of the stress of looking for money,” he added. 

Despite the income Hassan generates monthly, the rise of competing ventures threatens his livelihood. His customers are reducing, yet he is hopeful that his jovial nature would help him lever amid fierce competition.

He added that he jokes a lot to attract many students to himself and also tries to dress in a trendy manner. He holds a philosophy that his profession demands a fashionistic approach to succeed.

THEFT, INTOXICATION, BUT A WAY-OUT

One evening in November, someone broke into Hassan’s shop to steal a lighter among other petty things. It was not the first of such incidents; student-drunkards often stagger into his shop to create scenes, but he, as he disclosed to PEN Press, handled such situations by keeping calm.

“A business-minded individual should know that he would have different kinds of persons so he should be careful in relating with them. If not, all his plans would stumble as there are some enemy of progress in whatever we do,” he explained.

ADVICE FOR STARTERS

“Not everybody has the capacity of blending academics with business, so I will say endurance is the key. It is not an easy thing but with time, you will meet your goals”, he urged.

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