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Everyone cannot be an entrepreneur is a myth

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Entrepreneurship and problem-solving are like a Siamese twin. You cannot talk of one without the other. They are interrelated as entrepreneurs are problem solvers. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily supposed to be in business and this accounts for why there are social entrepreneurs. In fact, one can ‘preneur’ any profession/field as long as problems are being solved with innovative ideas. Now, we have ‘mediapreneurs’, ‘agropreneurs’, ‘medicopreneurs’, ‘acadopreneurs/academicpreneurs’, among others. The common denominator to all of them is problem-solving. This has thus made entrepreneurship to be so critical to solving myriads of problems in our society. If this premise is to be considered valid, then everyone can be an entrepreneur.

In a nation being plagued with challenges – natural and man-made -, entrepreneurship should be embraced as a viable alternative. This will reduce the polarisation of the society using the binaries such as ‘us’ versus ‘them’, ‘we’ against ‘they’, ‘leaders’ versus ‘followers’, etc. It will actually provide our society with the opportunity of having citizens who will think of solutions to the myriads of problems around them instead of apportioning blames to people.

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To buttress this position, I will like to share a personal story with us. 37 years ago, I lost my father to the icy hands of death. My father, a cerebral mind, married to an illiterate mother, was the breadwinner of the family. With his sudden demise the economic permutation at home changed and scarcity and hunger became a pastime in our homestead. In December of that year, I learnt that not going to school does not make you uneducated. You may not be lettered, but you are not uneducated! Education transcends ability to read and write. While we were brooding over what clothes to wear that Christmas, my mother was not perturbed. She assured us that we would wear something new! Where would it come from? We were not sure. She invited a tailor who took our measurements. My mother gave the tailor some of her old clothes. The tailor loosened them and made new designs from them for us! And so, we wore something new at Christmas! I learnt my first lesson in problem solving from my supposedly illiterate mother!

What is the relevance of the above story to the subject-matter, you may want to ask? I have decided to recount the experience to underscore that the society is a reflection of what happens at the home front. The foundation of a good society is the family. So, the kind of education/training received at home is critical to how a society evolves/grows. My mother could have become a wailer, cataloguing a litany of complaints. Rather, she looked inward and came up with solutions to the problem! This is the attitude we need as a nation. It is an attitude that encourages ‘can-do’ spirit. It is an attitude that promotes ‘positivism’. It is an attitude that discourages assessing the progress of a society with the prism of binaries. It is an attitude that relegates individualism and promotes collectivism. It is an attitude that can lead to having ‘The Nigerian Dream’. The Nigerian Dream that will make every citizen to embrace the culture of ‘Ubuntu’ – I am because you are! The Nigerian Dream that will promote altruism over and above selfish aggrandisement. The way to do this is to go back to the basics.

We need to go back to rebuilding the family system that promotes oneness and collective responsibility. With a functional family system built on sound moral and cultural values, we can then domesticate our education, focusing on our peculiar challenges using indigenous knowledge to mitigate or solve them. Schools should then become an extension of home. Our schools must be populated with teachers, not ‘cheaters’ who are in it essentially for survival. Experience has actually shown that real teachers bring out the best in their students, while cheaters masquerading as teachers kill self esteem of their students by venting their frustrations on them. A frustrated mind may not be able to bring personal dream to fruition, let alone the national dream!

Simulation of challenges or problems of our society in classrooms will encourage critical thinking. However, if those who are supposed to do the simulation of the challenges do not have entrepreneurial mindset it will be almost intractable. This goes to show that the society is in dire need of entrepreneurs in all the sectors of Nigeria’s economy. In fact, the concept of ‘employerability’ (Oseni, 2021) which reinforces the need for employees to see themselves as employers even while in a paid employment becomes relevant here. When everyone sees himself/herself as a solution to one problem or the other, there may be a way out of the recurring cul-de-sac Nigeria is in as a country. In fact, there will be more of problem-solvers both in the private and public sectors of the economy. A country that is blessed with citizens with entrepreneurial mindsets will not only thrive at micro, but also at macro level. So, there is need to marry employability (the need to have skills that will make you employable) with employerability (the need to see oneself as an employer even as an employee). This may be a game changer! A combination of the two in all we do, particularly in both formal and informal trainings could open people’s eyes that everyone can actually be an entrepreneur. It only depends on what one ‘preneurs’ or where one ‘preneurs’ (whether as an employee or as an employer).

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There may also be need to beam our searchlight on Personal Entrepreneurial Characteristics/Competencies (PECs) to validate the argument of this piece. Personal entrepreneurial competencies (PECs) is a set of qualities, which help to outline the attitude and behaviour of entrepreneurs (Alusen, 2016). In other words, personal characteristics are traits that make people more or less capable of entrepreneurship (Driessen, Zwart, 2006). One of the most widely used classification of personal entrepreneurial competencies was created by Management System International (MSI) and McBer and Company in 1989. They identified 10 personal entrepreneurial competencies: opportunity seeking, persistence, commitment to work contract, risk-taking, demand for efficiency and quality, goal seeking, information seeking, systematic planning and monitoring, persuasion and networking, self-confidence.

Looking through the characteristics, they can be taught using case studies or scenarios simulations. If an average child at home is made to know how to identify opportunity even in the face of adversity, this would rub off on his/her disposition towards the society and its challenges. Persistence, risk-taking, goal-seeking, among other PECs listed earlier here are an integral part of man. Whether one is an employer or an employee, to make it in life one needs to be persistent, one needs to take risks, one needs to be goal-seeking.

As long as all of these can be taught/learnt or part of everyone’s daily activities, it only suggests that everyone can be an entrepreneur. What one ‘preneurs’ or where one ‘preneurs’ is then the crucial factor. One can ‘preneur’ at home, one can ‘preneur’ as an employee or as an employer, one can ‘preneur’ as a public servant or as a private sector player. All that is important is to creatively and innovatively proffer solutions to problems wherever we find ourselves. To this end, the assertion that everyone cannot be an entrepreneur is a myth!
Oluyi is a Personal Development Advocate and Head of Public Relations Unit of the National Centre for Technology Management, an Agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

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