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No one can ignore the well-documented immeasurable contributions and legacies of Chief Akintola Williams, the centenarian, who passed on recently at the ripe age of 104 years in Lagos, to the accounting profession in Nigeria and Africa in general which earned him the indisputable sobriquet doyen of accounting.
We too, acknowledge the pioneering and legendary role he played not only in uplifting accounting practices in the country to international best standards by being the first Nigerian-qualified chartered accountant but also, in setting up the first Accounting firm in Africa, Akintola Williams & Co., in 1952 which today, had expanded to other countries thereby mentoring a generation of accountants, promoting excellence and honesty as a professional, virtues that brought him fame and influence for several decades.
Therefore, apart from living a fulfilled life of impeccable service to their fatherland and humanity contributing his quota to the nation’s social and economic development, it is also on record that the doyen made his mark in the quest for Nigeria’s independence from Britain in the colonial era as a nationalist been one of the founders of the Yoruba Egbe Omo Oduduwa society while in London, as a student, which had Dr. Oni Akerele as president and Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Secretary now of blessed memory.
In our view, the elder statesman will be sorely missed by many, especially the business community where he shone brightly as a beacon of light and direction given his numerous contributions to the development of the Nigerian economy through active participation in the establishment of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) now Nigerian Exchange Group and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Described as an ’upright, intelligent and cosmopolitan gentleman, who made enormous impact in the business community and in promoting probity and good governance Williams’ demise certainly, represents the end of an era for the accounting profession in Nigeria while his knack for “excellence, his undying quest for truth and justice and an abiding commitment” to the development of the country will remain evergreen.
Similarly, he made a strong impact in growing the Nigerian and contemporary arts, culture and tourism as exemplified in his leading role in the building and promotion of the Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre, Onikan, Lagos, as its co-founder, a body that continues to play a vital role assisting budding indigenous artistes and contemporary music.
In addition, we totally agree with Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki’s remarkable tribute showered on the accounting guru that he not only led an “envious legacy as one of Nigeria’s most accomplished professionals in the corporate world, a rare breed nationalist” but perhaps one of the few Nigerian professionals, “who attained continental acclaim in pre-independent Nigeria, crossed over to the digital age and kept on with the changes of the times” unblemished.
In other words, his outstanding contributions for over seven decades in the field of accounting will never be forgotten considering the profound legacies he left behind, his indelible footprints in both private practice and his short stint in public service which are worthy of emulation.
Williams’ meritorious rise to the pinnacle of his profession in our view, wasn’t happenstance but by dint of hard work and perseverance which should also serve as a great lesson to all Nigerian youths that there is a short cut to success.
According to the records, Akintola was born on 9 August 1919. His grandfather, Z. A. Williams, was a merchant prince from Abeokuta, Ogun state, while his father Thomas Ekundayo Williams was a clerk in the colonial service who later set up a legal practice in Lagos after training in London, England as a lawyer.
His education started at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos where he proceeded to the CMS Grammar School and Yaba Higher College Lagos, on a UAC scholarship and obtained a diploma in commerce. In 1944, his thirst for more knowledge took him to the United Kingdom where he studied Banking and Finance at the University of London, graduated in 1946 with a Bachelor of Commerce and continued his studies there before qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1949.
Upon returning to Nigeria in 1950, Williams served with the Inland Revenue as an assessment officer until March 1952, when he left the Civil Service and founded Akintola Williams & Co. in Lagos, a company that made history as the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa. At the time, the accountancy profession was dominated by large foreign firms in the country even though there were a few small local firms, that were not chartered accountants.
In no time, according to records, he got patronage from several indigenous companies including Nnamdi Azikiwe’s defunct West African Pilot, K. O. Mbadiwe’s African Insurance Company, Fawehinmi Furniture and Ojukwu Transport as well as provided services to the newly established state-owned corporations among them the Western Nigeria Development Corporation, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
It is also noteworthy that determined to expand his brand, Akintola appointed the first partner in the firm, Charles S. Sankey, in 1957, followed by a Cameroonian, Mr. Njoh Litumbe who opened branch offices in Port Harcourt and Enugu, and later spearheaded overseas expansion with branches firmly established in the Cameroons, Côte d’Ivoire, Swaziland, and others.
Consequently, the accounting company witnessed a boom following an astronomical increase in demand for its services as a result of the promulgation of the Companies Act of 1968.
A philanthropist par excellence board member and major shareholder in numerous companies, he retired in 1983 while between 1999 and 2004, Akintola Williams & Co. merged with two other accounting firms to establish Akintola Williams Deloitte (now known as Deloitte & Touche), reputed as one of the largest professional services firms in Nigeria with a staff of over 600.
Significantly, he played a leading role in establishing the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960 with the goal of training professional accountants, emerged as the first President of the association, a founding member and first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, and was actively involved in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange, (now Nigerian Exchange Group) and participated in the activities of these organisations into his old age.
Similarly, public sector positions held by him where he demonstrated integrity, honesty and accountability include Chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners (1958–68); member of the Coker Commission of Inquiry into the Statutory Corporations of the former Western Region of Nigeria (1962); member of the board of Trustees of the Commonwealth Foundation (1966–1975); Chairman of the Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel (1973) and Chairman of the Public Service Review Panel to correct the anomalies in the Udoji Salary Review Commission (1975).
He was also active in social circles as past President of the Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island, Lagos, founder and Council member of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and founder and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Musical Society of Nigeria.
In recognition of his contributions to national development, the Federal Government conferred the Officer of the Federal Republic, O.F. R. on him and also appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England for services to the accountancy profession and promotion of arts, culture and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria.
Before his demise on September 11, Akintola Williams had garnered all the eminent laurels associated with the accounting profession and lived a life of humility, service and charity with great influence on many. inspired self-confidence in a generation of accountants who would make a further impact in strengthening transparency and competence in the corporate world for decades to come.
While sympathizing with his immediate family for the huge loss, we demand that a national institution be named after him by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not only to immortalize him but serve as a constant reminder of his impeccable character, virtues, and legacies even to generations unborn.
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