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David Dafinone (1927-2018): A chartered accountant par excellence

By Kabir Alabi Garba and Yemi Adepetu
01 October 2018   |   3:00 am
Born on March 12, 1927 in Sapele, Delta State, David Omueya Dafinone, is an accomplished accountant, administrator and a leading politician. The patriarch of the Dafinone family, an accounting family listed in the Guinness book of records as having the largest number of accountants in one family, is the proprietor of D.O Dafinone & Company,…

David Omueya Dafinone.

Born on March 12, 1927 in Sapele, Delta State, David Omueya Dafinone, is an accomplished accountant, administrator and a leading politician. The patriarch of the Dafinone family, an accounting family listed in the Guinness book of records as having the largest number of accountants in one family, is the proprietor of D.O Dafinone & Company, which he founded in 1966 and later merged to become Horwath Dafinone and Company.

Growing up:

Dafinone attended Government School, Benin, from 1934 to 1938 and Edo College, Benin, from 1939 to 1942.

Between 1943 and 1945, the young Dafinone moved to Abeokuta Grammar school where he remained until he completed his secondary education and emerged as the overall best candidate in Mathematics in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination in West Africa for that year.

This feat automatically won him a scholarship from the then Governor of Northern Nigeria, L. H. Gobble, to further his studies overseas.

Brilliant career:

Dafinone joined the civil service on August 28, 1946 as a third class clerk in the Registration and Records Department under the supervision of Mr. E. Ejueyitchie, the administrative officer in the Finance Department.

In 1948 when Mr. Ejueyitchie was transferred to the Zaria Training Institute, Dafinone was appointed Acting Administrative officer in the Finance Department.

At 21, the consummate accountant was saddled with the responsibility of preparing the native treasury estimates for the entire Northern Nigeria.

The task entailed the entire paper work on revenue and expenditures of the entire 92 native treasury in Northern Nigeria.

Any time the estimates were prepared, they were taken before a special Finance Committee appointed by the colonial administration for approval before they eventually received the Governor’s consent.

On that committee were five other notable Nigerians – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, Alhaji Aliyu Makaman Bida and Alhaji Yahaya Madawakin Ilorin.

Given his excellent performance as Acting Administrative Officer in the Finance Department as well as Assistant Secretary to the Special Finance Committee of the Big Five, Dafinone was recommended for the First Devonshire Course in Public Administration at the University of Exeter in August 1951, where he spent two years and obtained a Diploma in Public Administration.

On completion of the course, Dafinone was advised by the then Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Arthur Richards, who had much knowledge of his performance in Kaduna to read for a university degree if he must come home to cope with the challenges of development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He thus enrolled for a degree in Economics (with specialisation in accounting) in 1953 at the University of Hull.

He transferred to the University of London as an external student in 1956 where he graduated in 1958.

He immediately enrolled for his professional examinations with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

As a chartered accountant:

In the same year, he joined J.A. Miles and company, a firm of chartered accountants as an articled clerk.

He served his term for three years with the firm and having passed his professional examinations, he was admitted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in November 1963.

Back home, Dafinone qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Nigeria in 1970 and joined Delloites, Haskins and Sells, a firm of Chartered Accountants as an audit manager.

In spite of the heavy load of work he shouldered at Delloites, he maintained a compact social life.

He hobnobbed with several Federal Ministers of the First Republic such as Chief Festus Okotie Eboh and Sir Balewa.

He also on several occasions assisted the Prime Minister in drafting some of his short questions and answers in the parliament.

On August 18, 1966, he founded a firm of chartered accountants registered in the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the registration of Business Names Act of 1961.

He named the firm after himself; D. O. Dafinone & CO. (now Horwath Dafinone).

Public service life:

In 1967, the then Head of State General Yakubu Gowon appointed him into a three-man commission to investigate the assets of public officers in the then Mid-West State of Nigeria.

He worked for several months on the commission, but at the end of the day had to make independent, minority recommendations because he found some aspects of the initial report not agreeable with his personal convictions.

In 1969, the Gowon Administration again appointed Dafinone a Commissioner under the Ports Amendment Decree of 1969 to serve as the Federal Government Arbitrator with Justice Fatayi Williams as Chairman to take over the Port of Warri and Calabar from the United African Company Limited.

From 1964 to 1970, he sat on various Commissions as Administrator and member for the Apapa Road Project tribunal together with Justice Adefarasin as chairman.

Known for his excellent dispute resolution capabilities, he was also appointed to arbitrate the dispute between the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Limited and Thomas de la Rue Limited of the United Kingdom in 1990.

Between 1990 and 1991, Senator Dafinone was appointed as a consultant to the Federal Government to source funds for the completion of the Lagos Third Mainland Bridge Project, while serving as a committee member to review the administration of indirect taxation in Nigeria.

Dafinone as a politician

History has it that in September 1978, when the administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo lifted the ban on partisan politics, he joined the NPN and with the likes of Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir and others, they wrote the NPN manifesto inside his office on Broad Street, Lagos.

Dafinone announced his arrival on Nigeria’s political landscape with his landslide victory in Bendel South Senatorial election in 1979 when he was 52 years old.

He was elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in his first attempt, to represent former Bendel South.

Then Delta was under defunct Bendel State, which has now been broken into two – Edo and Delta.

Running on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), he polled 59,632 votes to beat Thompson Salubi of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) (24,874 votes) and E.E.E Idigbo of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP (20,760 votes).

Impacting the Urhobo people:

Dafinone used his political prowess to reposition the Urhobo ethnic group which had been dogged by factional fighting among various interest groups.

He started the Urhobo Development Association (UDA) with other prominent sons of Urhobo to provide purposeful leadership for the people in the 80s.

In the Senate, he served as Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Industries, National Planning and Steel Development between 1979 and 1983.

He was re-elected for a second term in 1983. He consistently supported the creation of new states as a means of ensuring good governance.

As the NPN caucus leader in the Senate, he had a working arrangement with the other parties.

Thus on several issues of national interest, he was able to muster his colleagues for the Alhaji Shehu Shagari Administration.

He showed an unflinching commitment to the promotion of high standards in the practice of the accountancy profession in Nigeria.

As an entrepreneur

As a successful industrialist, Dafinone went into joint venture partnership with multinationals to establish two industries in roofing materials and rubber processing plant in Sapele Local Government of Delta State.

Dafinone constructed a multi-purpose building named Ceddi Towers in the Central District Area of the Federal Capital City, thereby offering employment to hundreds of Nigerians through various businesses that he presides over.

He was a member of the Urban Land Institute of America, an organisation with an asset value of $93 trillion, since 1992 and was elected to the Public Private Partnership Council of the same body in November 1994.

He was elected a fellow of the National Geographical Society of Great Britain in 1990.

The nationalist, who was a member of The Patriots, a group of eminent elder statesmen, of late, had been leading the Union of Niger Delta, a non-governmental environmental and social justice pressure group.

Founding the PDP:

With the end of the Abacha regime in June 1998 and the beginning of General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition to civil rule programme, Dafinone joined force…