Recently a news filtered in across the social media that Africa’s richest man and business tycoon, Aliko Dangote rejected a call by the country’s opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to run for the office of President in 2019. Although the report could still be debated because it only surfaced online and no major newspaper reported the news.
However, the news is consistent with the personality of Africa’s foremost entrepreneur who has never being a member of any political party or run for any public office in his illustrious career. He has also not openly supported a candidate in Nigeria or anywhere in Africa, so going by this fact, it is consistent with the news that Aliko Dangote will never accept an offer to be Nigeria’s president. So on this premise I am basing this article on, and aspiring successful entrepreneurs and businessmen has a lot to learn from not mixing business with politics, just as Dangote has been doing.
This does not mean that successful businessmen has never ran for office, in fact current President of the United States Donald Trump is a successful businessman who dived into politics and conquered all opponents on his wake. There are seven other former U.S presidents who were successful businessmen before joining politics; the likes of Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter, Calvin Coolidge and others.
In Nigeria some business moguls has equally made their mark in politics, notable among them is Late MKO Abiola who actually worn a presidential election but was never allowed to rule; Businessman Raymond Dokpesi is also another businessman who is active in politics.
Dangote is however not the only businessman wisely staying away from politics – Entrepreneurs such as Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia, Tunde Folawiyo and many others has been political silent observers.
Having studied Dangote’s approach to politics for a long time, I have been able to piece many evidence together from an extensive research and below are salient lessons aspiring successful business tycoons can learn from Aliko Dangote’s behavior towards politics;
- Businesses depends on government policies to survive: For any business to survive in any country, there has to be an enabling environment to survive, this is made possible by government policies which directly or indirectly affect businesses. Most of these policies are being influenced by powerful businessmen through lobbying. Imagine as a businessman you ran against the current governor of your state or the president, your guess is as good as mine – adverse policies which may harm your business could be enacted.
- Business CEO’s don’t always make good politicians: Running a business empire into a global phenomenon isn’t the same as running a country – in business as a CEO you make key decisions, hire and fire, appropriate resources at your own will, but in politics it is a different ball game because the powers of a politician is derived from the people while the wealth of a businessman is gotten from customers. Considering the fact the right decisions as a political office holder may not always work, striving to always be politically correct does a lot of damage to reputation, and overtime after the time as a public servant the goodwill of the people you need to keep your business after office may have been exhorted.
- In business they are called “competitors” but in politics they are “opponents” – these are the people businessmen and politicians deal with on daily bases. While in the business circle you deal with competitors whose primary goal is to acquire more customers and patronage, but in the muddy waters of politics, you deal with dangerous opponents and in some cases could be rightly called your enemies – these elements are not good for business except you want to quit business entirely and focus on politics.
- Running for office is only for some term, business is a lifetime venture: another lesson entrepreneurs can learn from Aliko Dangote’s abstinence from politics is that running for office is just for a term of four years each, but your business is for a lifetime and could be handed over to the next generation. So in essence a business empire is more important and serious than a political office. Most businessmen who joined politics in the past never came out the same, the impact on their business is very severe.
- Billionaire businessmen need the support of every government in power: this is related to the first point above but in this scenario I considered the fact that the economy of every country depends on government in power. This is why smart businessmen strive to remain neutral in politics at all time. Openly supporting the current regime may favor you at the time, but consider what will happen to your business when your “friends in government” lose election to opponents.
It is pertinent to understand the difference in running a business and a political office, clearly grasping the psychology behind both worlds is what you need to take a stand, just like Aliko Dangote, it is crucial to remain neutral if you want to remain successful as businessman or entrepreneur.