Dr Charles Akindiji Akinola, is a businessman, consultant and Chief of Staff to the Governor, State of Osun. The former lecturer has consulted widely across the public, private and development sectors to governments, World Bank, USAID, UK Department for International Development, Ford Foundation, Shell International, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil and West African Gas Pipeline Company, among others. Going down memory lane with MARY NNAH, he shared how he bagged his PhD at 27 years of age, how his doggedness has taken him to the pinnacle of his career today and his plans to globalise culture in Osun State
Tell us a bit about how you kicked off with your career?
I started as lecturer; I taught at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria from 1984 until 1989 and was on the training and research faculty of the Pan African Institute for Development (PAID) in Buea, Cameroon 1990. I have been in the field of International organisations with the same sector but worked in Ghana, Kenya, Latin America and other parts of the world. Mostly involved with rural areas, in Nigeria, I had some engagement with Niger Delta, other rural communities using culture and agriculture. I am into public policy, my work crossed private and public sector.
I was the Country Director of TechnoServe, a US-based international development agency, also I am the founder/ CEO of Enterprise for Development International (EfDI), a development sector market leader based in Lagos. I was the Nigeria National Coordinator of the Sustainable Tree Crop Programme (STCP), an innovative multi-agency, public-private sector effort involving the USAID and the chocolate industry in facilitating the improvement of small holder agricultural systems focusing on cocoa and cashew in West Africa.
I was the founding director, Community Development Foundation (CDF), Nigeria’s premier wholesale development finance agency.
I was most recently, Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Fellow at the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) where my work focused on Innovation for Economic Development; I am also the founding Partner, Hybridea Partnership, a Public Sector Innovation and Strategic Management Consultancy.
I worked at structuring and managing Cross-Sector Partnerships involving government, private and development sectors in different parts of Nigeria and West Africa and participated in the University of Cambridge, UK programme on Cross-Sector Partnerships in 2005 and Public-Private Partnerships at the Harvard Kennedy School.
I have consulted widely across the public, private and development sectors to governments, World Bank, USAID, UK Department for International Development, Ford Foundation, Shell International, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil and West African Gas Pipeline Company, among others.
I have authored some research reports, studies and papers focusing on sustainable development and cross-sector partnerships.
I have been in the field of international developments, support work and enterprise. This contributed to my working with the rural communities. My work has been in partnership with government and private. I work using the Ford foundation to set up special programmes with the government of Osun State. All in all, I have been privileged to be involved with policy making in Osun government. One of the things we did is to use culture to drive the economy. Then I moved on to my new capacity as Chief of Staff for Osun state government.
What plans do you have for Osun State in your present capacity?
One of the growth drivers in Osun is culture. We are looking at culture and its drivers that would grow the economy. In Osun we have competitive advantage due to the fact that most people from Yoruba land trace their root and claim ancestry to Ile-Ife as their traditional home so we are looking at product like reverse pilgrimage, just like those traveling to Mecca and Jerusalem. We want those who are attached to their root with culture. So our plan is to globalise culture in Osun State, a creative economy while promoting culture it would receive a boost in its economy. Osun will have to boost their culture, as we work towards innovations and policy making in the state. Osun has strong cultural ties and we are globalising it as a world heritage centre. When you innovate, disruption takes place in a positive way. The Osun Osogbo has become world global festival as we have several cultural festivals. Osogbo is a home of traveling theatre where you have the likes of Duro ladipo, Akin Ogunpe.
Did you grow up in Osun and how was growing up like?
My parents are teachers and father is a clergy as well. We go home always. I am from Ilesha; my parents often take us to Ilesha. Although my mum is from Oyo, we have strong ties with Ilesha.
What memories do you have while growing up?
It was interesting. I grew up in Zaira. My teacher parents are usually strict, coupled with the religious part of it as my father was equally a clergy. My mom’s father was running the northern part of CMS bookshop in Nigeria at Guozo. As I grew up, I had very strict parentage. My parents were transferred all over Nigeria. I had some rascality but it was moderated by our faith. It is all good, I had lots of education both formal and informal form. I enjoyed every bit of growing up.
Growing up were you a socialite?
I enjoyed going to party, I derived joy in mixing up. I had a license to party because I will always pass my exams. I finished my PhD at 27. At such a young age, I didn’t allow prejudices. I am liberal and focused.
What are some of the values your parents inculcated in you that have impacted your life?
Contentment and the value of service were some of the values I got from my parents. Invariably it’s going to come out well. It is not necessary to climb ladder at the same time, you have different ladders. I mind diversity a lot as I work in urban and rural areas. I was with some people yesterday, today a different people.
What are the life lessons you have learnt?
Patience, contentment, live a life of service. I don’t think I had it better. I tried to be focused, even when I am leaving the university. I would rather I be a professor of practice than a university professor. I have kept my lane, it is an advantage situation.
When I was leaving the university, I had the capacity to manage diversity that made me to discover talents. I just kept at it. I keep pushing when I have strong convictions about something. I made sure I stayed focused. Patience has its reward – I rather be a professor of practice because of the life experiences I have witnessed and I am able to share.