By: Ajibola Muftaudeen
“Don’t think what the government can do for you; think instead what you can do for the government. “Come get skilled to better your life; don’t wait for the government. ”The only solution to youth unemployment in this country is entrepreneurial empowerment.”And so on…
We all have somehow, somewhere, played audience to this kind of words before, these campaigns – unless you have never been an active entrepreneur or part of a startup, or better still a Nigerian. Like the early morning cock’s crow, these preachments are the wake-up call to our glimpsing the light awaiting our dream venture, if we only would heed. They come in piecemeal, in slices, as dollops, well and sweetly dished to fill us full for the Herculean task, or otherwise luxurious bask, of being a member of the household Nigeria. Perhaps not in every setting but, I daresay, go to any entrepreneurial programme and anthems like these would never miss their way to your ears.
The speaker, a broken-even entrepreneur in most cases, always has a storied account of his own road to success to share. If he is the type who started from below the ground level as did most of us, you’ll hear how he had to, like the Subway Surf character, remain on the run just to escape the dream-killer Nigerian landscape. How he toiled, cashless, hungry, no less a scavenger. How the traffic jam dented his daily sales target and almost made him wholly stagnant. How erratic power supply sent his business hanging on the balance of boom and doom.
Or hear the speaker some notch higher in the entrepreneurial ground – as we never start above the ground – and his would be: So painful, my friend, the company, for fear of the country’s unstable socioeconomic history, restricted our shareholding to an unduly high risk level; oh, the rent-seekers were killing the market, lobbying the government for undue advantage; I tell you, you won’t believe it when I say I lost that contract because I’m Igbo; bad we had to shift base as our customers were drastically migrating the community due to the crisis.
Hmmn. He would then breathe across to the rapt audience, and announce his breakthrough. It came, he would say, out of doggedness, out of obeying these dos and don’ts, by never letting challenges put you down, by seeing nothing but your goal. Oh the challenges will be enormous but just focus on your goal and never relent. Then, somehow, somewhere, around here he would serve those campaigns, having done a good appetite-whetting job. He would dish and dish and these hungry starters would gobble up all like it’s their last supper. They will nod in agreement and reflect in unison that their own light too will shine if only they focus on their goal and not on the political quagmire hindering the smooth sail to this goal.
So I ask: this political apathy, is it out of hubris or servitude? Tell me, is it that the entrepreneur is now so successful, perhaps inordinately too, that pride cannot but set in or is it that he sees the politics of the day as a necessary evil he just has to let be? Is it that he is so wowed by the treasures aplenty before him that he forgets there are people who crave them more than he does or that he would rather bow and save himself the trouble of such tousle? Is it that his future is, by every inch, cast in diamond that no political burglar can break in or he reckons a shell as more concealing and likely to be overlooked by this rogue?
There is no gainsaying that entrepreneurship is the prosthesis of our disabled economy. It is the kiss of life to our almost breathless nation. Tiamiyu, that boy who would have been an urchin wrecking havoc about is now a professional confectioner sweetening the street. Susan, a topnotch barber now, would have been busy repairing her own pubic hair for the public. Youth whose minds the devil would have leased are now entrepreneurial evangelists, thanks to these campaigns.
But again, again, although one might argue that Tiamiyu’s cakes and pastries business might not require much preservation with fridge, Susan’s would fare far better if it is flushed with constant electricity. Also, and on a more general scale, while Tiamiyu’s customers wouldn’t have to do a double take with respect to hygiene and thus patronize him more if they know there is a dependable body out there who ensures the edibility of his ingredients, Susan would save many lives while earning if she knows she daren’t get caught without sterilizing machines in her shop. In a nutshell, entrepreneurship is just a subset of politics, and the entrepreneur will not only earn better when the government is functional but also contribute to the wellbeing of the masses, which in the first place is its aim.
So, by the above, one is forced to ask the entrepreneur where found he this political apathy. How, by these statements, he tends to want to secede from his own wholeness. The man who called us political animals couldn’t have been more correct, and, today, I’m sure, he would have been more direct. Today, he would use descriptions like political goat, political baboon, aquiline politics, politics of cat and rat. Today, politicians would be easily named and the masses quickly christened. Today, every individual, at least by virtue of his public statements, would have an officio-political name, one that would cling to him like his scrotal sac. And today too, this man, were he to be, would neither think twice nor write this long before he coins one, one punchy one, for this entrepreneur.