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OBITUARY: Akintola Williams, Nigeria’s first chartered accountant and classical music lover

OBITUARY: Akintola Williams, Nigeria’s first chartered accountant and classical music lover
September 12
09:47 2023

In some days to come, friends, family, stakeholders, and mentees will be serenaded with a playlist among which will be some of the best classical music — and the occasion will be the celebration of the life of Pa Akintola Williams.

He loved that genre of music so much that he, together with some other classic lovers, established the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) to promote classical and contemporary music in the country. While he would not get to enjoy the tunes again, the songs will spur a memory of the wonderful moments of his life and contributions to country and humanity.

Younger Akintola with wife

Across headlines, both national and international, Williams, who died aged 104 on Monday, has been described as a “doyen of accounting”, and he did live up to this description.

He was born on August 9, 1919, in Lagos, to the family of Thomas Ekundayo Williams, a colonial service clerk who established a law practice in Lagos after receiving legal training in London, England. Akintola Williams had his primary education at Olowogbowo Methodist School, before proceeding to Yaba Higher College on a UAC scholarship, where he obtained a diploma in commerce.

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MAN OF MANY FIRSTS AND LASTS

Oscar Onyema, GMD of NGX Group, presents a mini stock exchange bell to Akintola

Williams was a leader of the accounting profession in Nigeria and he played a significant role in shaping the country’s financial sector.

He obtained a degree in commerce (majoring in banking and finance) from the University of London in 1946. After graduation, he became the first Nigerian to qualify as a chartered accountant after gaining membership in several prestigious accounting bodies, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (1950), and the Chartered Institute of Taxation. He returned home and in 1952, he founded the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa, Akintola Williams & Co, in Lagos. His younger brother, Frederick Rotimi Williams was the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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He played a leading role in the establishment of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria (now the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria) in 1960, with the goal of training accountants with the highest ethical standards.

He was also instrumental in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). As a member of the National Council of the NSE, he contributed his quota to deepen the capital market such as establishing rules which reduced the barriers for companies to list on the exchange.

Williams was the last surviving signatory to the original Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Nigerian Stock Exchange at the founding of the NSE on September 15, 1960. He was also the last surviving member of the Coker Commission of Enquiry set up by the late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, to probe the finances of the Western Region.

TIME AND ROLES IN SERVICE

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Williams celebrated his 104th birthday on August 9

His company, Akintola Williams & Co. in Lagos, which was established in 1952, expanded organically and through mergers to become Deloitte & Touche, Nigeria’s biggest professional services organisation.

In his lifetime, Williams held many public sector positions including chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners (1958-68), member of the Coker Commission of Inquiry, member of the Board of Trustees of the Commonwealth Foundation (1966-1975), chairman of Lagos state government revenue collection panel (1973). He was also the founder and chairman of the board of Trustees of the Musical Society of Nigeria.

He also served as the chairman of various corporations, including the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) audit committee.

In April 1997, Queen Elizabeth honoured him with the title of the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for the promotion of arts, culture and music through MUSON.

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He was also honoured with the Order of the Federal Republic by the federal government in 1982.

A MAN OF ‘MODERATE LIFE’ 

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Williams with Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Ogun

Despite achieving so many feats and setting the standard for a nation in the accounting profession, Williams said he lived a moderate life. He was quoted as attributing his long life to moderation, exercise and avoiding controversy.

“The secret of my longevity is moderation. In everything I do, I strive to be moderate, and I mean moderate, a little of this and a little of that – not too much. Whether it is what you eat, what you drink, or whatever you do, just be moderate and you will live a refreshing, strong, and fulfilling life,” he was quoted as saying.

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Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos with Akintola

“When you are excessive in your daily life activities, you lose a life and its fantastic quality. But when you keep it moderate, you will not only be in control but enjoy life abundantly. Also, you have to endeavour to live a simple life, and avoid controversies, conflicts, and over-ambition. Just live a simple life and life will be your friend.

“Please always take enough rest. I always observe my siesta, sleep about eight hours every day, and generally have enough rest. Your body is your priceless possession. So, please, do not abuse it; for if you do, you will lose it. And please, do not play with exercise – mental, physical, and spiritual. The three go hand in hand. I still do my studies and attend to professional matters referred to me. Once you stop exercising your brain, you die literally. I keep fit and I do not live a sedentary life.”

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Akintola shares a moment with young students

Williams played the piano and read poetry. He enjoyed longevity of life and the world enjoyed the longevity of his services and experience as he kept making contributions to the development of Nigeria and Africa for a long time after retirement from active service in 1983.

Obafemi Hamzat, deputy governor of Lagos state, signs a condolence register at the residence of late Akintola | Photo: Akeem Salau

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