‘Cultural festivals have helped society’

6 days ago 8

In this interview with Omolara Akintoye, Chief of Staff to Osun State Governor, Dr. Charles ‘Diji Akinola, explains how globalizing cultural festivals in the state has gained global prominence,

WHAT were you doing before you became the Chief of Staff?

I have done different things, I started out teaching at the University of Ibadan, I had my PhD in Agriculture Extension and Social Change, and so I did that for some years. Then I went to work in Cameroon for an international organization. So I’ve been in the field of international development for many years now, since 1989, I went to work in Cameroon and then got involved in working in different countries: in Nigeria as a Country Director of an international organization, and then moved on to support work with the same sector in different parts of the continents Ghana, Kenya, sometimes in Latin America. So my work has been around rural communities, about the culture, agriculture and enterprise of people in rural areas. So that has moved me to working in rural areas, in different parts of Nigeria as well, Niger Delta and then into public policy. I had a distinct privilege to also work as a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy schools, then at some points the Harvard weather health center for international affairs where I was a fellow. I’m also an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Fellow of the Weather head Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University. So my works involved partnership between government and the private sector. Recently, my work has been with government where I had the opportunity to be funded by Ford Foundation to setup a special programme in support of the government in Osun, it’s an office of economic developments and partnership. The office essentially was setup to expand the space for innovation in economic development and governance in that state. So I did that, with support from government and international agencies for  eight years and then I moved on to new capacity as the Chief of Staff to the governor of Osun. So all in all, I have had that privilege to be involved in policy making in that state, and the most exciting thing about the work for me is about the fact that I had the opportunity to disrupt the system, when  needs be, when the need arises. It’s only when you innovate, then disruption comes into play, not in a negative way, the system get shape and from there, new innovations come in.

Looking at the cultural and creative economy, Osun State no doubt has a comparative edge, how has the state maximize this to her advantage?

One of the things we’ve been able to do in Osun is to start to define what culture could deliver, it’s one of the growth drivers in Osun, because we have a competitive advantage looking at culture and the creative economy. The competitive edge we have is that most Yoruba people, within the country or outside the country, all over the world would claim their ancestry to Ile-Ife which is in Osun and so we go to quite a number of places and you see people of colour, Yoruba descent, they want to comeback, and so we are looking at products like reverse pilgrimage, just like people go for religious pilgrimage. We are looking at some cultural pilgrimage where people who want to come back to Africa and, because of strong cultural ties to their home, you know, the traditional home, their ancestral home. So that’s one of the things we’ve tried to do. How do we go about that? Globalizing cultural festivals in Osun and perhaps the notable culture of festival is the Osun Osogbo, festival which now has gained even a lot more global prominence because of the designation of Osun Osogbo as a world heritage center by UNESCO, so many other festivals in Ife. It’s only one day in Ife that they do not celebrate one deity or the other. If you look at the landscape if you go to Iragbiji, go to Iwude in Ilesha, go to Oke-Ila, Ede, it’s a rich culture around art. Look at Oshogbo where you can rightly say is a home of travelling theatre in Nigeria where you have people like Duro Ladipo, Akin Ogungbe, Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi you know, it’s all periods of Renaissance, we think very well executed policies of our culture in creative economy, Osun will actually receive a boost in the economy, even while promoting their culture.

What lessons have you learnt about life, what will you say are the values your father inculcate in you and has helped in your ability to manage diversity?

Contentment is the key, you keep talking about education as a way to help women come out of the glass ceiling and our parents brought us up to be contented with what we have, and when you have education, it opens as many doors as you would not even imagine. Another is value of service, let’s keep the course, let’s keep at it, invariably, it’s going to come out well. You know I never really hit the bottom, why? Because it got so clear in my mind that if you have strong conviction about something, just keep pushing. Number one you enjoy it, you understand and you derive satisfaction in what you are doing, what you love to do and don’t necessarily look to the left or to the right to see. There are different ladders you know, so everybody has his ladder in front of him or her. So there is a value of being contented with what you have, value of service, and importantly, you know. I work in rural areas as well as urban settings. I manage diversity a lot, so you can see me flow in different settings and that really is where I derive joy.

Read Entire Article