OYO101: Insight Into Seun Kolade’s Enterprise Republic | Muftau Gbadegesin

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    I remember securing admission to read English and Political science at the now-upgraded Emmanuel Alayande College of Education many years ago – it was a homecoming for me. As an indigene of the ancient Oyo town whose childhood experience wasn’t in any way connected to and tied with the historic town, that incredible chance was for me a moment of lift. And for the next three years between 2011 to 2014, I took my time to carefully explore the town’s curves and contours with mirthful abandon; crisscrossing from ‘owode’ to ‘owinni’, ‘gedu’ to ‘gudugbu’, ‘baago’ to ‘baasi’ ‘isokun’ to ‘iseke’, akesan to akeetan and so on.

    But the biggest moment of lift for me didn’t come until I was appointed the editor-in-chief of a campus magazine. Through that position of huge responsibility, I got the rare opportunity to tour the town and see first-hand what living in Oyo Alaafin looks like from the point of view of its residents. As efforts toward the publication of the magazine gathered momentum, I submitted and subjected myself to the tutelage of a course mate who incidentally was both an indigene and a resident of the town as a tour guide. We toured different places across the town and visited some important personalities for financial help.

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    To celebrate the 10th years (2004-2014) anniversary of the late Chief imam of the town, Alhaji Moshood Adebayo Ajokidero, we had an exceptional opportunity to engage in a chitchat with him about his stewardship as the Muslim leader in the community at his official residence sometimes in 2013. He was most welcoming and accommodating. His insightful responses were captured in the edition of that magazine. But after my program at the college ended in 2014, I decided to leave the town to search for greener pastures elsewhere.

    First to Ibadan then back to where I grew up: Igboho – the only surviving old Oyo empire. From there, I sat for another JAMB seeking admission to the University of Ilorin. By 2015, I had secured a provisional admission and was on the course to becoming a graduate. At Ilorin, my mind still craved Oyo. And on every vacation, I was always eager to visit the town. But in Oyo, and despite its numerous tertiary institutions, you hardly encounter any intellectual spot where you could debate and discuss issues of national prominence with relish – newspaper joints in Akesan and Owode used to be the go-to places but I mean a place far more substantial. Importantly, it is hard if not impossible to come across any intellectual hotspot where brilliance meets quick wit. By 2021 after my service year ended, I had developed a keen interest in the town’s growth and development. That was when destiny brought me to the Oyo East and West assembly member-elect Olorunpoto Rahman who was serving as the trail-blazing chairman of the Oyo Global Forum. Through the forum, I got the chance to attend the first and second Olu-Obafemi round table discussions where issues troubling the town were laid bare and practical solutions provided. Through the eyes of the program, I got a glimpse into how small, incremental, and grounded efforts can help advance the interest of the community.

    But I know we needed more than once a year of a panel discussion in the hollow hall of Tess Resort and Hotels to get our community out of the woods. Specifically at the first Olu Obafemi round table, issues of youth restlessness took the center stage of discussion with panelists ranging from Dr. Sulleiman Adediran, Hon. Akeem Adeyemi, Chief Bisi Ilaka, Mr. Bimbo Kolade, and the award-winning journalist, Taiwo Hassan Adebayo. In his opening remark, Taiwo Hassan Adebayo walked the enthusiastic audience through his one-on-one encounter with some disenchanted, disgruntled, and disoriented youths of the community. “Most of these young adults” he contended “have resigned to fate in part because of joblessness and particularly due to the precarious situation of the country”.

    Taiwo Hassan Adebayo spoke with a mixture of passion and trepidation: there is fire on the mountain in the future of the community and a ticking bomb waiting to explode in a jarring manner – but that we can still arrest the situation before it boomerang. Incidentally, that same reality was equally echoed by Professor Seun Kolade, an Oyo-born UK scholar in his recent Facebook post announcing the birth of Enterprise Republic. An Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and International Development at De Montfort University, Professor Seun works at the intersection of digital transformation, transformative entrepreneuring, social capital, entrepreneurship education, and SMEs innovation in turbulent environments. “I was having a conversation with some young relatives last week,” Professor Kolade remarked in that Facebook post “Two of them are waiting for their university to open. So, I wanted to know how they spend their day in the meantime, and what plans they have for their future”, Through that charged conversation, it was evident to Professor Kolade that as a community, we are contending with a devastating crisis. “In my home town of Oyo,” he continued “we have seen the emergence of so-called “joints”, where unemployed and probably unemployable youngsters congregate daily to smoke marijuana, drink themselves to stupor, and in some cases, engage in hard drugs”.

    Far from home, the lead editor of the Palgrave Handbook of African Entrepreneurship certainly knew “this is a ticking time bomb”. But Professor Kolade knew about the social crisis than just writing about it. He’s spent 15 years conducting research in the interlinked areas of development, and within that period, he has engaged directly with nascent and aspiring entrepreneurs, including via a series of enterprise boot camps through which he and others have trained more than 600 young men and women over past five years. To demonstrate his commitment towards tackling the menace once and for all in his capacity, Professor Kolade said “committed effort to tackle the menace is no magic wand but that he’s upbeat about providing a space for aspiring and nascent entrepreneurs to acquire new skills, develop their ideas, create value for the society and capture value for themselves”.

    Quite frankly, Professor Kolade’s life-changing enterprise republic reminded me of the story of Muhammed Yunus, a Bangladesh economist who transformed the lives of poor traders in more than 46,000 villages across his country forever. Writing in the 8th Habit, author Stephen Covey reported that all it took Muhammed Yunus, a US-trained economist whose future was well secured was to “abandoned the bird’s-eye view that lets you see everything from above, from the sky to a realistic worm’s-eye view, trying to find whatever comes right in front of you— smell it, touch it, see if you can do something about it. Like Professor Kolade, Muhammed Yunus knew he was never going to be at peace with himself unless he’s taken tangible, precise, and practical steps toward solving the problem. The result of Dr. Muhammed Yunus was a community of transformed people who had access to soft loans to advance their businesses and importantly to escape the ruthlessness of moneylenders who milked them with heavy and unbearable taxes.

    “This facility (enterprise republic) will be opened 24/7, powered by solar energy and 24/7 internet access” Professor Seun Kolade happily announced. It is complete with an incubation hub, an accelerator space, a studio for content creators, two training rooms, a multipurpose hall, and a restaurant. Not done yet, the republic equally has its doors widely open for all and sundry without discrimination and prejudice. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil” as Edmund Burke once famously declared “is that good men do nothing”. Once open, the enterprise Republic will transform lots of young people like me forever. All thanks to good men like Professor Seun Kolade who will never fold their arms or close their eyes to the problem of youth restlessness tearing the stability of our community apart.

    OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via @TheGMAKing on Twitter, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850

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