It was Schumpeter, the great Austrian economist of 20th century, that popularized the term creative destruction, a term that “encompasses changes entrepreneurial activity makes every time a new process, product or company enters the markets”. In his theory of economic development, Schumpeter explored the role of entrepreneur in the capitalist economy. To him an entrepreneur is an innovator who brings out new ideas and applications- an agent of change. The Schumpeterian entrepreneur, as a term is used to refer to the person who fulfills that definition, according to Braguinsky, Klepper, and Ohyama (2009),” introduces a new good or a new method of production, opens a new market or discovers a new source of supply, or carries out a new organization of an industry. He upsets the conventional way of doing things. When successful, he elicits widespread imitation”. Other scholars such as Robert B. Reich sees entrepreneur as a leader, manager, and team builder. Entrepreneur as a risk taker some one who brought factors of production such as labour, capital, resources together to produce physical goods or service; a lonely creature who sees where others failed to see, who volunteer to make a dip in a sea where others dare not to, an economic change agent per excellence. This is what characterized Buhari - an entrepreneur from commercial city of Kano. The story of Buhari is that of a young man who because of hard work, intelligence, determination and luck has achieved what others who are older than him could not achieved.
I first met Buhari some time in 2006 at a program organized by an NGO in British council Kano office. During the course of our discussion I came to realize that he was the kind of people who have tried their hands in different things. He was, for example, at one time a fish farmer, poultry man, book seller, computer mechanic, and a small retailer. He told me that his business life begun when he was just 13 years old, following in the foot step of his uncle who was a dealer in electronic equipments. I asked him about his educational aspirations where he told me that he was not interested in having more than a diploma in Business, which he has already acquired by the time we made our last meeting. He also informed me about his business trips to many parts of Nigeria, more especially Lagos, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Yola, Enugu, and Sokoto. It was during many such trips that he learn the technique of aggressive marketing which has help him a lot in his business under takings. He is a very sharp man who notices a new business idea ahead of others which help him in his business of moving things across different geographical areas. For example, some times he will notice a new business idea in Lagos which was yet to come to Kano, through sheer determination and wit he would quickly introduced it to Kano and made a lot of surpluses before others entered the market. In all these he took a lot of risk, of his business not accepted in Kano or other places. He put a lot of efforts to achieve these fits, as it is not easy to move from idea to reality in untested waters.
My second meeting with Buhari was last April in Kano, another chance encounter. I was visiting a friend in Kofar Nassarawa, within the ancient Kano city, when I met him in the midst of friends. He immediately recognized me and called my name, “Malam Shafiu, where are you going?” I was elated to meet him for second time. “Alhaji Buhari, it is such a long time since we last met”, I answered him. When I asked about his current business ventures he told me he was into production of Sallawa (Quail) eggs which after doing market research, he found out that demands for the eggs is greater than supply. Therefore, he quickly entered the market to help close the remaining gap. He told me that he has acquired a large fierce of land which he used to house his poultry. On daily basis, he produced up to one thousand eggs. He said he had a very efficient supply chains through which he solds his eggs to various markets. On why there was such a high demand for the egg, he said, ‘it is because of some medicinal and nutritional values of the egg’, like the treatment of diabetes, skin ailments, etc. But, eggs production was not the only business Buhari was into. He was into real estate where he bought old apartment blocks, remodel them and later sold them off. He told me he had made a lot of money in this line of business. He said ‘the secrete to it is that one has to be very imaginative and put his ear to the ground’ in order to get good business deals. Some times he buys a whole old structure and demolished it down, in order to get the piece of land and build another structure in it place. So far he has a number of residential and commercial properties, which he has rented out.
Alhaji Buhari is a man who over the years has built a very large network of associates who have played important roles in the development of his small business network. Like with any other businessman, networking is of significant importance in its development. That explains Buhari's networking prowess and ability to connect with people in both middle and high ranking positions. In Nigeria, the ability to make it big in the business environment depends on who you know. Even multi billionaires like Dangote owes their large fortune to networking and hobnobbing with those in corridors of power. There is no way you can make it a lone over here. If security officials did not get in your way, the rent seeking bureaucrat will surely do. Even simple bank loan is not easy to get without access to some one in the system, no matter the quality of your proposal. Banks prefer to give loans to organizations with big names and top government officials. If you take away the personal loans they give to individuals with regular salary accounts, there is nothing else. All government mantra about giving assistance to small and medium scale enterprises is mere campaign talks and propaganda. Even the Central Bank so called commitment to small scale industries has failed to bear fruits. The problems of small businesses do not stop there, there is the problem of power supply which makes it mandatory on businessmen to source their electric power through use noise making generators. Roads that you ideally make use of in moving final goods to various markets are not in good condition. Thus, adding to your existing problems. In some cases you must provide your own security, because of the level of insecurity in all parts of the country. That is why I commend the young Buhari for finding the courage to run two medium size industries that produces school chairs and varieties of juice.
To most people, when one talk of innovation and entrepreneurship, the first thing that come to their minds is the creation of physical thing. Though, invention of a new product or machine is part of innovative entrepreneurship, that is not all that entrepreneurship is about. In fact mere invention of something does not make one to be an entrepreneur. What that makes someone to be is an inventor. Before an inventor can be called an entrepreneur he has to take his invention to the market and succeed. That explains the reason why many inventors in history are not entrepreneurs as they drop their invention after inventing it. That is left to real entrepreneurs to create market opportunities for the inventions. Though, Buhari has never invented any new product or machine, he is an entrepreneur in the real sense of the term. The fact that he created new marketing procedures to market his products makes him one. Likewise, his risk taking abilities and managerial prowess. Among his leadership qualities that come to public notice, are his sound ethical compass, the ability to take unpleasant decisions, ambition, clarity and focus, as well as emotional self confidence. No entrepreneur in modern time can be worth his name without the ability to think outside the box. Due to my visits to his plants and business premises as well as my discussions with him on his future plan, I have reached the conclusion that Buhari is highly intelligent person. His adoptive nature and flexibility help him a lot in building his business empire. He is somebody who always emphasized the importance of time, he always said ‘time is money and I don’t play with it’.
Braguinsky, S., Klepper, S., Ohyama, A. (2009) “Schumpeterian Entrepreneurship”, National Science Foundation, USA.
Hagedoorn, J. (1996), “Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Schumpeter Revisited”, Industrial and corporate change journal, Vol. 5 No. 3, Oxford university press