By Is’haq Babatunde
The Nigerian youths, especially students in various tertiary institutions in Nigeria, have been urged to hone their entrepreneurship skills and develop the capacity to do things with their hands as a way of guaranteeing their future and breaking the cycle of “inter-generational transmission of poverty”.
This call was made by the immediate past Director of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, Dr Mahfouz Adedimeji, while addressing the ninth Youth Conference of Badrud-Dinil Islami Asalat Circle of Nigeria, which held recently at the Science Lecture Theatre, University of Ilorin.
Speaking on the theme of the Conference, “Islam and Entrepreneurship”, Dr Adedimeji first conceived Islam as total submission to will of Allah and then traced the origin of entrepreneurship to the Latin words, “entre” (meaning to ‘swim out’) and “prendes” (meaning ‘to grasp’, ‘to understand’, ‘to capture’), both of which were combined by the French-Irish Economist, Jean Baptiste Say, in 1800 as entrepreneur, after being influenced by Adam Smith’s 1776 book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”.
He said he would adopt the definition of entrepreneur as “an individual who has the ability to see and evaluate business opportunities, gather the necessary resources to take advantage of them and initiate appropriate action to ensure success as a risk-taker”.
According to the keynote speaker, citing Qur’an 2:257, Islam encourages business, blesses trade, promotes entrepreneurship but forbids usury.
He noted that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) started his business trips at the age of 12 while some of his companions were successful merchants and businessmen. He also averred that the principles of entrepreneurship in Islam are anchored on faith or service to God and society, not just personal profit, trustworthiness, exemplified by Prophet Muhammad who was nicknamed “The Trustworthy” through his personal and business dealings as well as high moral standard or Islamic ethics.
The Fulbright scholar stressed that Africans, Nigerians in particular, had been entrepreneurs who traded by barter, with the goods or products they produced and services they rendered, before the invention of money and advent of the colonial masters.
He emphasised the entrepreneurship mindset of the Yoruba for example with their saying, “Ise omo aseje, owo omo asela,” meaning that a job would only put food on one’s table but a business would make one financially successful.
While submitting that true education lies in the ability to use the head, the heart and the hands to bring about change, the Associate Professor of Pragmatics and Applied Linguistics decried a system that emphasises just the stuffing of facts in the learners’ heads without adequately developing their hearts or attitudes/ character and ignoring their hands or productive ability.
For individuals to be entrepreneurs, Dr Adedimeji, who is also the Secretary-General of the University of Ilorin Muslim Community, stressed the importance of such factors as education, novelty/innovation, team spirit, research-mindedness, entreprise, productiveness, risk taking, energy, nurturing spirit, experimentation, unstoppable/fearless disposition and responsibility while explaining that education is first and foremost and it marks the difference between a fashion designer and a tailor, a chef and a cook, a restaurateur and a food vendor, a marketer and a hawker as well as a mechanic and an auto-technician.
While warning against illegal business ventures in the areas of gambling, usury, speculation, alcohol, pork, hard drugs and substance abuse and other intoxicants, Dr Adedimeji encouraged students and graduates to explore vast opportunities in two major areas of livestock farming (in poultry, cattle, rabbit, goat, sheep, fish, snail, quail, etc.) and e-services, such as web-designing and development, web hosting, digital marketing, apps development, banner design services, search engine optimisation services, blogging and micro-blogging stressing that he himself blogs at www.mahfouzadedimeji.com.
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of the occasion and Executive Director of Trendsville Media Ltd, Arch Zakir Oladotun, noted that gone were the days when jobs were waiting for graduates and the need of today is for everyone to have something concrete to offer. He gave examples of the companions of Prophet Muhammad who were successful entrepreneurs noting that many successful people, including Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, developed their entrepreneurship skills while in the university.
Highlights of the occasion, which was attended by the Murshid of the Circle and Head of Arabic Department, University of Ilorin, Dr Lateef Onireti Ibrahim, and other delegates from other States of the Federation, included the presentation of symbolic cash gifts by the Keynote Speaker to active participants and funding of a sowing machine for an entrepreneur constrained by equipment by the Chairman of the ceremony.