Akintola Williams (1919 – 2023)
It has been an ambiance of sobriety and gratitude to the Almighty as the nation celebrates the life and times of Pa Akintola Williams who gloriously bowed out of the terrestrial realm on September 11, 2023, at the ripe age of 104 years.
While his departure has regrettably created an irreparable void, however, the fact that he lived a full and fulfilling life is heart-warming and a big consolation to his family and Nigerians in general, to whom the late Williams had much impact.
Also, his enduring legacies and impactful contributions to the accountancy profession (which earned him the sobriquet ‘doyen of accounting’) and nation-building are eternal testaments that Pa Williams came, saw, and conquered triumphantly. Indeed, it is a celebration of a life well spent!
Born on August 9, 1919, in Lagos, his grandfather, Z. A. Williams, was a merchant prince from Abeokuta, and his father, Thomas Ekundayo Williams, was a lawyer, who set up a legal practice in Lagos after training in London. Akintola Williams was the second of five brothers. The eldest was Pa Bankole Williams, and younger brothers were Chief Rotimi Williams, Ambassador Soji Williams, and Kehinde Williams. Akintola Williams was married to Mabel Etuntiloye Coker (deceased) and their union was blessed with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
He began his formal education at Baptist Academy, Lagos, in 1927. After completing his secondary school education at CMS Grammar School in 1938, he proceeded to Yaba Higher College on a United African Company (UAC) scholarship where he pursued a diploma in commerce from 1939 to 1941. In 1944, he travelled to England where he studied Banking and Finance at the University of London and graduated in 1946. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1949 and returned to Nigeria in 1950 to begin his career as the nation’s first indigenous chartered accountant.
Pa Williams founded the oldest indigenous accountancy firm in 1952, and under his visionary and innovative leadership, the firm grew to become the largest professional services provider in Nigeria. He was instrumental in the establishment of several organisations and associations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) where he served as the pioneer president, the Association of Accountants in Nigeria (AAN), and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). He was also one of the founding fathers of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa when it was established in London under the leadership of Dr. Oni Akerele and Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
He participated in various committees and panels, including the Coker Commission of Inquiry into the statutory corporations of the former Western Region of Nigeria (1962), and received several awards and recognitions including The Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) from the Nigerian Government in 1982, ICAN’s first-ever Gold Medal Merit Award in 1988 and Commander of the British Empire (CBE) title from Queen Elizabeth II in April 1997 for his services to the accountancy profession.
Pa Williams was a chartered accountant par excellence and played a significant role in shaping the country’s financial sector. Undoubtedly, he was a trailblazer whose extraordinary career set the precedent for others to follow. Williams epitomised integrity and embodied competence. It is a fact of common knowledge that the late veteran discharged his professional duties with due diligence, transparency, and honesty not minding whose ox is gored. His top-notch expertise transcended beyond the shores of Nigeria as he was globally recognised as a leader in audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, and risk advisory services.
Despite being visibly stricken with age, Williams remained cerebral and an encyclopaedia of knowledge to his last days. He was an all-rounder; a seasoned administrator, entrepreneur, and accomplished businessman. Indeed, he distinguished himself in many areas as a man worthy of respect. As aptly captured by Fatai Folarin, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Deloitte Nigeria and West Africa, “Williams was not just a man of years — but also a man of landmarks.” The giant strides he made in the accounting sector remain unparalleled. Among the books authored by Pa Williams are World Without End: An Autobiography of Akintola Williams; and Endless Footprints: A Biography of Oye Williams: Raised Above the Crowd.
Pa Williams walked in the path of honour throughout his lifetime as he placed integrity and dignity over and above material considerations. He was a beacon of light that shone so bright for others to see. He was also an inspiration to goal-driven professionals who were desirous of attaining the pinnacle of their careers. His story rekindles hope that true success in all respects can be achieved via hard work, discipline, and continuous self-development. It also inspires confidence that one can become affluent without putting hands in the till. In this era of quick fixes, get-rich-quick syndrome, and the “education is scam” fallacious catchphrase, the exemplary lifestyle of leaders like Pa Williams ought to form part of the history curriculum taught in schools to aid in resetting the flawed orientation of most of the younger generation.
Although his earthy sojourn has ended, the indelible footprints of Pa Williams are perpetually etched in the sands of time. It is saddening to acknowledge that his shoes may be too big for a suitable replacement as he unarguably towered over the accountancy profession in Nigeria. His commitment to excellence and his tireless efforts made him one of the most respected individuals in the global business landscape. Time and season may come and go, Pa Williams will remain an esteemed figure in the history of Nigeria and beyond.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.