How Nigeria Kills Her Entrepreneurs: The NuliWood Story
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At 10:55 am this morning, I received a whatsapp message that read:
“Lagos state is pulling down Ada’s shop.
So much for doing business in Nigeria.”
I was in the middle of a meeting when I received that message, but I immediately excused myself to make a quick phone-call to clarify the text.
Unfortunately the voice over the phone confirmed my fears, Ada Osakwe 2014 Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow of the Africa Leadership Institute and a fellow of the African Leadership Network (ALN) was just told a few minutes ago that her store had been marked for Lagos state demolition.
And the Lagos state government came prepared, they had a bulldozer, and polices officers armed with guns ready to carry out the deed. You would think for a second that they were destroying a criminal hideout.
At the back of my head I was hoping the issue would be resolved. Maybe the Landlord needed to pay the right people and they would go away.
But then around 1:12 pm, I received another image from our alumni’s whatsapp group. The store staff were on the building trying to remove the NULI JUICE logo from the building top in an attempt to rescue it from the impending demolition. That’s when it started occurring to me that this was quite serious.
Immediately I decided to drive down to the store to see what I could do to help. And what I saw was really the saddest thing I had seen in a long time. It was this picture…
The entire building and store had been reduced to a pile of rubbles. I saw business owners wading through the mess trying to salvage whatever they could find. Maybe a “door frame” or an “electrical wire” whatever they could get their hands on.
And across the road was Ada dressed coincidentally in black watching as a business with so much promise … one that she had poured her heart and soul into for months being buried in less than a few hours with nothing but a few minutes of warning!
I remember the first time she told me she would build a store in Lagos. The ideas she had, the passion and the optimism, I saw fire in her eyes. She showed me pictures from the Abuja store and showed me the app that allowed her watch her stores 24/7. She was excited and I was excited, here was someone my classmate who was going to do something different … something BIG.
When I heard the store was opened I went down to see it, and everything was exquisite, the furniture, the attention to details, everything just as she had described. I would drive by the store often and there she was in the window at her computer working, marketing and planning.
But now all that was gone. The dreams and visions “temporarily” reduced to a pile of rubbish.
And in the midst of the concrete waste a lot of people will gather to discuss legalities.
But for me I choose to discuss “entrepreneurship” and what message the Lagos state Government sends to its young and aspiring entrepreneurs …
For a country in the middle of a recession, battling low unemployment and one desperately in need of jobs. For that country to destroy a legit business employing people without any warning to hardworking business owners sends the wrong message. It tells people that the government does not RESPECT or CARE about small businesses.
Because if it did this would never have happened.
A government that respects small businesses and understands their critical impact to the Economy will ensure that their businesses are not destroyed with just a 10 minute notice. They would do more to protect their entrepreneurs so as to encourage them create jobs. They won’t send armed police to break down a building as if they were common criminal hideouts. They will treat them with respect.
Today there was no sign of respect or empathy. It was just coldness and today I felt really hopeless about my future in Nigeria. Because I witnessed the birth and destruction of a business in a matter of weeks. I saw a business buried right in front of her owner.
The touch of sadness was palpable, the smell of hopelessness and frustration suffocating. I saw tears.
But I know one day (and this is really cliche) things will be different, because our generation will be in-charge and this generation that has failed us and still fails us will get to see in their last few years what Nigeria should and could have been.
And for every “Ada” out there, that has gotten their businesses harassed, barraged, insulted, degraded and destroyed by a myopic Government, hang in there. They can destroy your buildings, but they can never kill your IDEAS.