By Emmanuel Adebayo:
Presently the country is streaming with talks of entrepreneurship and movements towards entrepreneurial development. Innovative thinking is the message – a shift in paradigm for the younger generation with a purpose to create more job providers and less job hunters. I am personally involved in this string of development; I am an active advocate for the teaching of entrepreneurial skills and principles at all levels of education. But I have a fear; within my heart I am saying a quiet prayer every time I take an entrepreneurial class, hoping silently that this new thought will not be tainted by the same infectious disease that killed innovation in the last generation – OPPORTUNISTITIS.
'Opportunistitis', I have defined as the inflammation or the stretch of an opportunity. It occurs when an opportunity exceeds its elastic limits due to exerted pressure. The causative agents for this disease are called opportunists. These are suckers, with great adaptation for sucking the juice completely out of every opportunity created by an innovative thinker. In Nigeria, there are the innovative thinkers – coming up with new thoughts and ideas, making new waves and there are the opportunists, who see the new waves being made and decide to venture out into the same idea, not out of passion but out of selfish desires to fill their pockets.
We've got several innovative minds in Nigeria, but we've got more opportunists. When a line of business becomes popular, you'd see that for the next couple of years most of the companies registered will follow the same line of business, doing and providing the same services. We would continue until that line of service becomes saturated and all the goodies excavated. Once upon a time, someone thought of and started a sachet water business, right now, there is a sachet water producer on almost every street (at least in the city I live).
Half of the so called innovative thinkers actually just build on existing ideas – it's like making the photocopy of a document through a color photocopier, it's still photocopied material. Sometimes it seems to me like we are waiting for someone to start something. We watch closely to see if he makes it, once we realize the possibilities of becoming rich trough the idea, well the rest is history, we join the train – there are very few trail blazers left. Even professionally, some professions are 'over – sought after' (permit my use of words) not because of passion but for prestige which comes from the financial gains. In Nigeria, most children want to either be doctors, lawyers, engineers, economists, accountants and lots of the other 'prestigious' professions – prestigious in their thoughts because of what they think they see.
I have thought about this countless times and I am almost tempted to conclude that the only thing that motivates us as Nigerians is money. The greatest message of entrepreneurship is summarized in Ralph Waldo Emerson's words: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”
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