Entrepreneur, a major buzz word in the Nigerian society, we’ve probably been fanatic about “start up’s” before the Californians created Silicon Valley. We credit our Igbo brothers and sisters with a remarkable drive to lunch out alone with a business idea and see it from start to finish, but honestly, its somewhere in all of us, it seems like within our DNA is encoded a drive for enterprise and trade, capitalism courses through our veins. We rarely sit around satisfied with our white-collar employment, we lunch out and find a second hustle! Such a remarkable term that defines the Nigerian Spirit to do more, to try harder, to work hard and work smart, because for many of us, we desire to leave a legacy for posterity. We love comfort, excess and ownership. So, no a white-collar job is not enough, we strive for more to satisfy that urge that stems from our nature and is strengthened by how we’re nurtured. For a significant number of Nigerians, the entrepreneurial drive need not be taught, it’s our way of being. We learn techniques, skills and strategies to fine tune and birth our ideas, but that staying power, that resilience is a free gift we received from our mothers and their mothers before them.
The paradox of the Nigerian society is how this drive for success and enterprise does not extend to our institutions. It seems that somehow the traits that make us successful as individuals have failed to find expression in the institutions that were created to serve us. Douglass North, an American Economist and co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences defined institutions as the rules of game in a society, the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction. The term institution applies to both informal institutions such as customs and to particular formal institutions created by the government. We seem to have let our institutions wallow in the darkness of obscurity and rapid decline while on a daily basis we struggle under the weight of their ineptitude.
We have arrived at a pivotal point in history where as a people, we need to extend our entrepreneurial drive to the political landscape. We have one of the fastest growing populations of young people in the world, 50%-60% of Lagosians are less than 30 years old. In a world where many industrialized societies are dealing with problems associated with an aging population, we are blessed with a young and vibrant populace itching for change. It’s time to look to Political Entrepreneurship as this new generation begins to find ways to lead itself not just out of financial poverty but out of institutional degradation.
In a book on Political Entrepreneurship, the authors describe a political entrepreneur as a politician, bureaucrat or officer within the public sector who encourages entrepreneurship for growth and employment using innovative approaches. According to the authors, Political entrepreneurs have the potential to be innovative and encourage growth and development by fundamentally challenging the prevailing formal and informal institutions. In times of economic distress, political entrepreneurship is essential to finding new ways to promote growth, employment and welfare. Schneider and Teske (1992) define political entrepreneurs as individuals who change the direction and flow of politics.
Adam Sheingate identified three general attributes that outline the concept of Political Entrepreneurship. First, Political entrepreneurs shape the terms of political debate: they frame issues, define problems, and influence agendas. Second, Political entrepreneurs are a source of innovation: they invest resources in the creation of new policy, new agency, or new forms of collective action. Third, entrepreneurs somehow consolidate innovations into lasting change: entrepreneurs have transformative effects on politics, policies, and institutions (Sheingate 2003).
The movement toward political entrepreneurship should be relatively smoother for us based on its similarities to the capitalist form of entrepreneurship we innately subscribe to. Very much like entrepreneurship in the private sector and business world, the political entrepreneurial process comprises of the discovery of political preferences and needs of the electorate as well as of political decision makers (Schneider and Teske 1995, Wohlgemuth 2000, François 2003); the identification, selection and framing of problems and solutions (Kingdon 1984); the dissemination and “brokering” of ideas between different social networks and epistemic communities, e.g. between science and politics (Campbell 2004); the mobilization of political support and formation of coalitions on different levels (Kuhnert 2001, Scheider and Teske 1995, Roberts and King 1991); the mobilization of the media; the pushing of proposals for institutional innovation on the agenda of political decision makers (Kingdon 1984); the development of a political strategy (Roberts/King 1991) and the creation and/or recognition of “windows of opportunity” for institutional change (Kingdon 1984); the implementation and consolidation of innovations into lasting institutional change (Sheingate 2003). In bold are steps that business entrepreneurs take to ensure success, as is easily observable, these are the same steps we need to take in political entrepreneurship.
We’ve waited long enough, it’s time for that which courses through our veins to begin to course through the very fabric of our society. It’s time for our ever-growing young adult population to become actively involved in the political process and begin to drive institutional innovation that would birth a nation that serves the needs of the majority of its population. We have a democracy, its high time we all begin to actively participate in it, instead of complaining about our leaders, it’s time we mobilize, innovate and proffer solutions that would transform our institutions and create the future we so earnestly desire.
“Political Entrepreneurship is a lot of things, but it isn’t like being in a comfy party. We are creating ideas, thoughts, coalitions, tools that – to be potent – must sit outside the normal continuum of everyday politics. We are moving faster than the election cycle. We are relentlessly pressuring sitting representatives. We are pushing under-observed issues right into the faces of the powerful. We are reading, dissecting and the recapitulating through action the works of our greatest political science thinkers.” Khalil Byrd.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
I’m Glory Oreoluwa Apantaku, born and raised in Lagos, an introvert, avid reader (in training) and lover of all things Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench. I truly enjoy writing as a release and medium for sharing ideas. Very few things feel better than seeing ideas and opinions masterfully outlined on a page, one of them is the thrill of flight and new cities with their unique architecture and cuisine. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a keen interest in behavioral and institutional economics. In my opinion, Adele and Asa are priceless gifts to our generation and Sound of Music is he best piece of musical theatre ever!