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Akintola Williams hits 100, soldiers on

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Akintola Williams

“As the whole world looks forward to his centenary next August, a grateful nation cannot wait to celebrate the accountant and statesman.”

This was exactly how The Guardian concluded a special tribute to the doyen of the accounting profession in Nigeria, Chief Akintola Williams when he marked his 99th birthday last year. Then, clocking 100 sounded too far. But today, the veteran accountant has finally joined the prestigious league of centenarians. Hurray! Akintola Williams is 100 years old today.

Today, his Ikoyi Lagos residence will be busy with friends and family members who will surely gather to celebrate the centenarian. Certainly, a ceremony is slated in his honour today at the MUSON Centre Onikan, Lagos; Williams and his late wife Mabel were 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.

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Born in 1919, Chief Akintola’s 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, 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 mastered in the favourite subjects that eventually were necessary for my profession, namely mathematics. Mr. Adeola used to take us to mathematical subjects. The fact that we were particularly lucky to have masters, who were good at those subjects also helped my decision to go in for accountancy,” he said in an interview.

In the days of 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 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 finish at the school, John Lewis; he was very rigid, strict to the rules and you dared not appear to be late,” he recalled.

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.


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