On Monday, the announcement of Chief Akintola Williams’ demise spread. Numerous accounts hailed him as the trailblazer of the accounting industry in Nigeria.
Following his passing, State Governors, including the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu have mourned the passing of the accounting guru.
But who was Akintola Williams?
Some probably first heard of Akintola Williams yesterday as the news of his death spread like wildfire. However, Williams has been an old part of Nigeria’s history.
Born on August 9, 1919, in Lagos State, Williams’ father, Thomas Williams, was a colonial service clerk and a legal practitioner in Lagos.
He earned a diploma in commerce at Yaba Higher College, Lagos, courtesy of a UAC scholarship. In 1944, he moved to England to study banking and finance at the University of London.
Williams story is important to Africa as he was the first African to become a chartered accountant in the continent. He pioneered the possibilities of the accounting profession when he got his chartered accountant certification in 1949. This achievement was sealed and certified by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. More outstanding is that he achieved this milestone at the age of 30.
In 1950, he returned to Nigeria and served as an assessment officer for the Inland Revenue.
A major turning point in his career happened in March 1952. He left the Inland Revenue and established his firm, which became Africa’s first indigenous Chartered Accounting Firm, Akintola Williams & Co., in Lagos State. Although local accounting businesses were existent at the time, none of them was chartered.
Akintola Williams & Co. grew significantly and by 2004, the firm had become Nigeria’s largest professional services organisation.
A number of achievements were to Williams’ credit in the development of Nigeria. He championed significant milestones in accounting locally and globally.
Excluding Williams from the narrative of ICAN’s inception in Nigeria is impossible. He played a pivotal role in founding the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and not only ICAN but also contributed significantly to the formation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
In addition to his involvement in establishing ICAN, Williams served as the institute’s inaugural President.
In 1999, Akintola Williams & Co. merged forces with two other accounting companies to form Deloitte. The company has now metamorphosed into a multinational with the name Deloitte & Touche and has over 1,000 staff.
It can be said that excellence runs in Williams’ family. The celebrated accountant was also an elder brother to Rotimi Alade Williams, a prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the first Nigerian to become a SAN.
Williams received two distinct honours of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1997) and Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 1982. He was given ICAN’s first ever Gold Medal Merit Award in 1988. With these honours, Williams sealed his title as a man of great influence.
Upon his retirement Williams devoted his time to building a music centre and performance hall for the Music Society of Nigeria.
Alongside Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Williams also founded Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a socio-cultural Yoruba group, which eventually became Action Group, a political organization that advocated for an independent constitutional government in Nigeria, away from the colonialists.
In 2011 Akintola Williams received an award from the Nigeria-Britain Association, celebrating his services to democracy and development in Africa.
They often say it is possible to live a thousand lives in a lifetime. Williams, through his many contributions and trailblazing career confirmed the saying.
Thanks to his countless accomplishments, he has firmly established himself as the patriarch of accounting in Nigeria. Williams departed this world on September 11, reaching the remarkable age of 104.