Deaf and dumb barbing contest!
BY TESSY IGOMU
Thirty-year-old Idowu Aderibigbe was born deaf and dumb. But rather than allow the circumstances of his birth define his path in life, he chose to rise above them. He picked up barbing as a vocation. After several years of apprenticeship, he started out on his own, operating in the Mafoluku, Oshodi area of Lagos.
The last child in a family of six, Idowu never saw himself as standing a chance in any competition, but by stroke of luck, he emerged Best Barber of the Year 2015, at the 23rd edition of the Annual WAHL Barbing Competition and Charity show held recently in Lagos.
The event, a brainchild of Chief Victor Mbadiwe, an elder statesman and native of Arondizuogu, Imo State, was held in conjunction with WAHL Clipper Corporation, USA, and J Green Nbadiwe and Sons Limited at the Syrian Club, Ikoyi.
During the event, 12 barbers slugged it out in a keenly contested competition to win the prize money of N150,000. Barbing equipment were also at stake.
For Idowu, who smiled home with the prize-money, it was an unforgettable moment in his life. He was all emotions – tears coursing down his face ceaselessly. Others who went home with N100, 000 and N50, 000 respectively were Salam Fatai Adesina and Adeniran Abiodun.
Speaking on the event, Chief Victor Ngozi Mbadiwe, Chairman of J. Green Mbadiwe and Sons, said the annual barbing contest remains an avenue to give back to society, noting that proceeds from the event usually go to charity. He disclosed that in the past 23 years, many charity homes round the country have benefited in cash and kind from his company, which is the sole distributor of WAHL Clipper Corporation products in Nigeria.
He explained that each year the company identifies a charity home to support with cash, equipment or other needed items.
“We have touched the lives of over 20 charity homes across the country since we started the competition. We always remember that there are people out there who are hungry, sick or need assistance. By reaching out to them, we feel fulfilled,” Chief Mbadiwe said.
The business mogul further explained that the competition also serves to boost the self self-esteem and morale of barbers as well as teach them the hygienic aspect of the profession.
Mbadiwe disclosed that the annual contest also features seminars on barbing hygiene, styling and equipment management for contestants. This, he said, equips the barbers with the knowledge of international standards in the profession, adding that a clipper in the hand of a talented boy will clothe, feed and also take him off the streets positively.
Chief Mbadiwe stressed that elevating the art of barbing, as well as its hygiene values remains a commitment that his organisation was not ready to compromise. He vowed to continue to encourage barbers to be as professional as possible as well as maintain highest levels of hygiene, so that the health of their customers would not be jeopardised in any way. His words: “The appearance of a barbering shop or the barber dictates whether a client would be exposed to infections or not. We are working to ensure that they know and are educated on how they can adhere to the best practices. Men should always barber with their own barbering and grooming kits and also ensure that they purchase original barbering kits to avoid damage to the scalp and infections such as HIV/AIDS.”
“In the past 23 years, God has really blessed our efforts, and barbering has become professionalized in Nigeria. The profession is no longer seen as that of dregs and dropouts in the society. It is now a respectable calling that must be patronized by prominent people in the society. The profession should never be looked down on. The annual barbering show, and the awareness it generates among barbers on hygiene, has taken the calling several notches higher.”
Speaking on how he delved into partnership with WAHL Clipper Corporation, United States, the astute businessman disclosed that the alliance started about 25 years ago, with the motive to provide quality-barbering equipment to Nigerians, encourage barbering as a profession in Nigeria and to use barbering to create employment for teeming Nigeria youths.
Recalling how he was introduced into the business of importing WAHL clipper by a friend, he said: A friend who barbed my hair with a WAHL clipper urged me to look out for the product in America and start importing them. I gave it a trial during one of my trips by calling up the company. They agreed that I become a distributor of their products in Nigeria, provided I pay in advance. I took the products to Balogun and Jankara markets in Lagos. The traders saw the products and liked them. I continued importing until the company called and decided to send an expert to Nigeria to look at the market. They saw that it was a big and growing one. Thereafter, they decided to give me the distributorship. We are now covering the West African market for WAHL.”
While appraising the success of Chief Victor Mbadiwe, Mr. Bob Thomas, the Global Manager, Special Project, WAHL Clippers Corporation, USA, said the Nigerian firm has helped to expand the distribution channels in the country.
On the success of the contest, Mr. Thomas said the competition has changed the general perception people have about barbers, adding that during the competition, the judges look out for criteria like hygiene, skill, speed and equipment to choose the winner.
The WAHL representative was however worried about the large number of fake WALH products in the Nigerian market and the danger they pose.
According to him, those who use counterfeited clipper face the potential danger of electrocution and possibly first degree burn to the skin. The Florida based WAHL representative revealed that the two identified major dangers were discovered by the independent laboratory set up by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), noting that efforts are being made to ensure that all avenues through which the counterfeited products get into the country are blocked, while the culprits are prosecuted according to the law.
His words: “One of the greatest dangers facing WAHL product is counterfeiting and these products have taken over about 70 per cent of the market. Most of these fake products are imported from China. These products are not durable and can pack up immediately, while an original WAHL clipper can last up to 15 years. That is the value composition of WAHL clippers.”
On how the counterfeited clippers can be checkmated, he said they are getting good support from the Chinese government to stop the production and export of the pirated products.
“We are working hard to find the manufactures of these fake producers and we have found quite a few. But the challenge in completely tracking them down is that they keep changing location. The prices of fake clippers keep going up because of the risk of doing business. We know who they are and we are devoted to finding them,” he said.