LIONS OF NIGERIA: CELEBRATING THE DOYEN LION, PA AKINTOLA WILLIAMS, A CENTENARIAN AND A MAN OF MANY FIRSTS

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Akintola Williams

Doyen Lion Akintola Williams (born 9 August 1919) was the first African to qualify as a chartered accountant.He began his education at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Bankole Street, Apongbon, Lagos Island, Lagos, in the early 1930s; the same primary school his late junior brother Chief Rotimi Williams attended.His firm, founded in 1952, later grew organically and through mergers to become the largest professional services firm in Nigeria by 2004. Pa Williams participated in founding the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. During a long career, he has received many honours.

Family Background, Early Life and Education.

Akintola Williams’ grandfather, Z.A. Williams, was a merchant prince from Abeokuta and his father Thomas Ekundayo Williams was a clerk in the colonial service who set up a legal practice in Lagos after training in London, England. He was the older brother of Rotimi Williams, who later became a distinguished lawyer, and the late Rev. James Kehinde Williams, a Christian minister.After his secondary education, young Akintola proceeded to Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) on a UAC scholarship, obtaining a Diploma in Commerce. In 1944, he travelled to England to further his education.

The first few months in England were an ordeal for the young Williams as the Second World War raged on and racial prejudice reigned. Very few accountancy firms were willing to take on coloured articled clerks. After months of searching for a job, Williams joined the firm of Binder Hamlyn & Co. as an articled clerk. In 1946 whilst serving his articles and studying for his accountancy examinations, he completed his degree programme in Banking and Finance and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of London. In December 1949 Williams passed the final examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and was admitted as a member of the Institute early in 1950. With this achievement he became the first African chartered accountant.A Yoruba of chiefly background, Akintola Williams was one of the founders of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa society while in London, with Dr. Oni Akerele as President and Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Secretary.Accounting CareerAfter qualifying as a chartered accountant, Williams took up paid employment with the Colonial office in London and was posted to Nigeria. He returned home in 1950 to take the post of Inspector of Taxes where he worked with John Selby, whose counsel years earlier had prompted him to consider being an accountant. He served with the Inland Revenue as an assessment officer until March 1952, when he left the civil service and founded Akintola Williams & Co. Through hard work and bold decision-making, it grew to become what is today the country’s largest accountancy firm, employing over 600 people.The company was the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa. At the time, the accountancy business was dominated by five large foreign firms. Although there were a few small local firms, they were certified rather than chartered accountants. Williams gained business from indigenous companies including Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot, K. O. Mbadiwe’s African Insurance Company, Fawehinmi Furniture and Ojukwu Transport. He also provided services to the new state-owned corporations including the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, the Western Nigeria Development Corporation, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Nigerian Ports Authority.The first partner in the firm, Charles S. Sankey, was appointed in 1957, followed by the Cameroonian Mr. Njoh Litumbe. Litumbe opened branch offices in Port Harcourt and Enugu, and later spearheaded overseas expansion. In 1964, a branch was opened in the Cameroons, followed by branches in Côte d’Ivoire and Swaziland, and affiliates in Ghana, Egypt and Kenya.

By March 1992, the company had 19 partners and 535 staff.Demand grew as a result of the Companies Act of 1968, which required that companies operating in Nigeria formed locally incorporated subsidiaries and published audited annual accounts. The drive in the early 1970s to encourage indigenous ownership of businesses also increased demand. In 1973, AW Consultant Ltd, a management consultancy headed by Chief Arthur Mbanefo, was spun off. The company acquired a computer service company and a secretarial service, and in 1977, the company entered into an agreement with Touche Ross International based on profit sharing. Akintola Williams, the Doyen of Accounting in Africa, was also a board member and major shareholder in a number of other companies. He retired in 1983.Between April 1999 and May 2004, Akintola Williams & Co. merged with two other accounting firms to create Akintola Williams Deloitte (now known as Deloitte & Touche), the largest professional services firm in Nigeria with a staff of over 600.

Public Roles, Honours and Legacies.

Akintola Williams played a leading role in establishing the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960 with the goal of training accountants. He was the first President of the association. He was founding member and first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. He was also involved in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange. He remained actively involved with these organisations into his old age. At a stock exchange ceremony in May 2011, he called on operators to protect the market and ensure there was no scandal. He said that, if needed, market operators should not hesitate to seek his advice on resolving any problem.Public sector positions held by him 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). Other positions include 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 (MUSON Centre).Akintola Williams motivated and mentored many young Nigerians who followed in his footsteps and became qualified chartered accountants in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

A strong believer in one unified body of accountants in Nigeria, he was one of those who worked tirelessly to achieve the incorporation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) through an Act of Parliament in September 1965.For his services to the accountancy profession and for promotion of arts, culture and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria, the Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation headquarters in Lagos is named in his honour.For his accomplishments, the Nigerian government honoured him with the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 1982 and Commander of Federal Republic (CFR) in 2001.When he retired from his firm in 1983, he was awarded ICAN’s first ever Gold Medal Merit Award in 1988. In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II conferred the title of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) on him in recognition of his services to the accountancy profession and for his promotion of arts, culture and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), a project he began in 1993.

Service to Humanity Through Lions Clubs International.

Akintola Williams became the first Nigerian to be a member of the International Association of Lions Clubs, the world largest service organization founded by Melvin Jones and his Chicago businessmen in !917. He joined the Lagos Doyen Lions Club, the first Lions Club in Nigeria in 1960 and served as the club secretary.

As the Doyen of Lions Clubs in Nigeria he led in the formation and charter of so many Lions clubs across the country. He contributed immensely to the success of the clubs in Nigeria and was involved in so many humanitarian services and various community projects established by these clubs. He remains till date the longest servicing trustee member of the Lions Clubs Multiple District 404 Nigeria with so many honours and awards including the Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow (PMJF).

His CMS Experience.

In the days of Pa Akintola at CMS, the school had weekly cards for students, which indicated their progress in school. Through the cards, parents could keep track of their ward’s activities in school and the Akintola Williams was never found wanting. According to him,“The essential thing is that they were very dedicated teachers; they knew their subjects and we had no alternative. Since we had to show weekly cards to our parents at home, we had to study hard. And I think I’m right in saying that through the five years that Rotimi (his formidable lawyer younger brother) and I spent in school, we were deciding who would come first this week and who would come next week; it was highly competitive,” Choosing Accounting as a Profession​Largely, Akintola Williams’ decision to pursue a career in accountancy came from his days as a student of CMS Grammar School, Lagos.“I would say a number of things made it possible for me to study accounting. First, we had masters in the favourite subjects that eventually were necessary for my profession, namely mathematics. Mr. Adeola used to take us in mathematical subjects.

The fact that we were particularly lucky to have masters, who were good in those subjects also helped my decision to go in for accountancy,”Going Abroad“As you know, to train as a chartered accountant, you have to serve what was called articleship or apprenticeship and you couldn’t do that here; you had to go abroad. I was with a firm where the second senior partner was a great disciplinarian, just as I would say the same with regard to the principal of the CMS Grammar School that saw me finished at the school, John Lewis; he was a very rigid, strict to the rules and you dared not appear to be late,” he recalled.

Marriage.

Akintola Williams was married to late Mrs. Efuntiloye Mabel Williams (nee Coker), (Fondly referred to simply as Mama Oye) his dutiful wife, who passed away on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, at the age of 88. In his wife, Pa. Akintola found the definitive virtuous woman. Their marriage, which spanned over six decades, was one of the firmest within the Nigerian social establishment. Mama Oye was able to show, in practical terms, and through her dedication to her family, the beauty of marriage. She was doggedly supportive of her husband in everything he did. No doubt, Mama Oye’s dedication to her husband was one of the mainstays of his successful career.Due to their love for dancing, the couple was instrumental to the establishment of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) and the building of the MUSON Centre, Lagos, where Baba still has a special seat.Particularly, his late wife, Oye, not only played a very prominent role in the land procurement and fund-raising for the building of MUSON Centre complex, she also ensured that Prince Charles of England laid the foundation stone of the complex. Similarly, she played a prominent role in the establishment of the Victoria Island and Ikoyi Residents Association (VIIRA) in pursuit of her love for a safe and healthy environment.

The marriage between Akintola Williams and Mama Oye was blessed with two children – Tokunbo Williams, a London-based lawyer and Seni Williams, a computer specialist who is the Managing Director of Tara Systems Limited, and many grandchildren. Accolades To accountants such as Chief Olukayode Akindele, Pa Williams remains a great motivator, who played a vital role in his becoming a chartered accountant.“When I came out of the university, I thought I had made it! But then, my father took me to Mr Akintola Williams.

There, Mr Akintola said to me, ‘B.Sc. Economics is nothing; it is HES, which meant ‘Higher Executive Service.’ He said that would be the best position I could ever get. But to be wealthy, you have to be a professional, an architect, engineer and so on. He, at the time, was a Chartered Accountant, and I was impressed by his style. Within me, I decided at that point, that I was going to be a chartered accountant. That is why and how today, I am a chartered accountant,” Akindele said in one of his interviews.Apart from the fact that Chief Akintola Williams is the Doyen of the Accountancy Profession, The Doyen of Lions Clubs International in Nigeria, we see him also as the founding father of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN); He is also the founding father of the Musical Society of Nigeria. So, he has too many parts and this is one Nigerian whom we are proud of, and we are willing to celebrate him every day.” As he attains the magical year of 100, we bless him and pray God to grant him peace at all sides and cause him to continue to age gracefully and in good health.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OUR DOYEN LION!! Thank you for lifting up humanity and for giving us a credible platform to serve humanity.Lions will continue to uphold your legacy.GOD BLESS YOU MORE!

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