The Chief of Staff to the Osun State Governor, Dr. Charles ‘Diji Akinola was recently honoured with the 2022 Cocoa Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s edition of the Nigerian Cocoa Awards ceremony held in Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to the organisers of the award, the Eti-Oni Development Group, Akinola was honoured on account of his tremendous personal contributions to the development of the cocoa industry in Nigeria.
“This award has been given in recognition of Akinola’s work over the last 27 years in the area of cocoa development during his time as the Country Director of Technoserve between 1993 and 1998; Founder/CEO of Enterprise for Development International (EfDI) between 1999 and 2008; Nigerian 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 smallholder agricultural systems focusing on cocoa and cashew in West Africa between 2001 and 2005.
“His work also pioneered the development of homegrown protocols for certification of organic cocoa as well as being the founding Director, Community Development Foundation (CDF), Nigeria’s premier wholesale development finance agency; Director-General of the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships and Team Leader in the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme from 2010 and 2018”, the organisers noted.
While presenting the award on behalf of the organisers, Oba Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti-Oni, noted that Akinola was selected as the only lifetime achievement awardee on account of his immense, selfless, and significant contributions to the cocoa industry.
He said the process of the award was through open nomination by all stakeholders, including the farmers and consumers of cocoa products. Thompson urged Akinola to do more to develop the local cocoa culture and economy in a manner that will subsequently transform cocoa-producing communities and bridge the gap with consumption regions.
The event, which was chaired by Her Royal Highness Erelu Abiola Dosumu, Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos, brought together leading players in the cocoa industry in Nigeria and across the continent.
Akinola, who was educated at the University of Ife, University of Ibadan and Harvard University, taught at the University of Ibadan from 1984 to 1989 and was on the training and research faculty of the Pan African Institute for Development (PAID) in Buea, Cameroon in 1990. Before his current appointment as the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Osun, Akinola had served as the Director-General, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships between 2010 and 2018. He had also chaired the state’s Planning Commission, working with leading development partners to deliver sustainable development in the State.
In these positions, he brought to bear his expertise and rich experience in expanding the space for innovation in governance.