Pa Akintola Williams The Accountant: Cerebral And Dapper Still At 99
Have you ever seen Pa Akintola Williams in any other outfit than his suits? Really, sometimes, one tries to imagine what the doyen of accountancy profession in Nigeria would look like in casual wears or even native attires, especially the ever-flowing agbada.
No matter the event, The Accountant, as he’s fondly called, turns up in suits; it has become a sort of trademark. Except for rare occasions like on November 29, 2017, when he appeared publicly in a safari suite at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos, for his national ID card registration spearheaded by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Baba has always been a suit man, with a tie to match.
But unlike some, who would go with a particular tie, Pa Akintola seems to love both neckties and bowties.
One might even be tempted to imagine that he actually wears his suits to bed. Turn his wardrobe into a tourist destination and it is certain that many would pay to see where Baba houses his precious finery.
Last month, precisely on August 9, 2018, Pa Williams marked his 99th birthday in Lagos, with eminent Nigerians in attendance. Just as expected, the Accountant stepped out all decked in a brown pair of suits, with necktie and Pocket Square to match, even when the ceremony was held right inside his living room. That’s how much he loves his suits, a fashion sense he must have picked during his days in the United Kingdom.
Held in his Ikoyi home, Williams’ 99th birthday celebration was graced by eminent Nigerians, including former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his Ogun State counterpart, Ibikunle Amosun, first Military Governor of Lagos State, Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson (rtd); Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; foremost banker and founder of First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Otunba Subomi Balogun; legal luminary and philanthropist, Chief Chris Ogunbanjo; former Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) Presidents, captains of industry and members of the diplomatic corps, who came to celebrate a man, who set the pace in the accounting profession in Nigeria.
Gov. Ambode, who spoke at the event, described Williams as a true Nigerian who worked assiduously to lift the country. He said the elder statesman, who is the first African to qualify as a chartered accountant, deserved to be celebrated for his contribution to the growth and development of Nigeria.
“The main reason we are here is to celebrate a true Nigerian and somebody who has actually contributed to the development of Nigeria. That he is still alive at 99 is worth celebrating, and this is like a prelude to the centenary that we are waiting to celebrate next year.”
“Apart from the fact that Chief Akintola Williams is the doyen of his chosen profession, we see him as a founding father of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He is also the founding father of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). So, he has too many parts. This is one Nigerian that we are proud of and we are willing to celebrate him every day,” Ambode said.
Though no longer given to long speeches considering his age, the celebrant appreciated guests who found time to be with him on his special day, wishing them long life as well.
From his diction and the joy in his tone, no one was left in doubt that Pa Williams is really still strong at 99.
Born in 1919, his grandfather Z.A. Williams was a merchant prince from Abeokuta in Ogun State and his father Thomas Ekundayo Williams was a clerk in the colonial service who set up a legal practice in Lagos, after training in England. He attended Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, at Bankole Street, Apongbon, and CMS Grammar School, Lagos.
Largely, Pa 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,” he said in an interview.
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.
“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 right 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,” he noted.
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 where he studied at the University of London, majoring in Banking and Finance. Though he graduated in 1946 with a Bachelor of Commerce, he continued his studies and qualified as a chartered accountant in England in 1949, making him the first African to achieve such feat.
“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.
Pa Williams was one of the founders of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, which he co-founded with Dr Oni Akerele as President and the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Secretary, in London.
After 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 founded in 1952, the first indigenous Chartered Accountancy firm in Africa, Akintola Williams & Co in Lagos. Though the firm started operations in Nigeria then as Akintola Williams & Co, between April 1999 and May 2004, two mergers with existing accounting firms were consummated, which resulted in its being the largest professional services firm in Nigeria with a staff of over 600. The firm eventually adopted the business name ‘Akintola Williams Deloitte’ on July 30, 2004, and remains the oldest indigenous firm in Nigeria till date.
As a founding member and first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), he played an invaluable role in the establishment of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. 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.
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. It would also be recalled that in April 1997, Queen Elizabeth also honoured him with the title, Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
Pa Williams was married to Mrs Efuntiloye Mabel Williams (nee Coker), 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 Pa. 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.
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.
At 99, Pa Akintola Williams is really with his wits all about him and he is still likely to be found at some major events, especially when it concerns any of his close friends to whom his loyalty is legendary. And like a woman, who never gets old in the dance she knows best, Pa Williams never looks his age once decked in his suits.
As the whole world looks forward to his centenary next August, a grateful nation cannot wait to celebrate The Accountant and Statesman.