Akintola Williams was a man of many firsts. He was the first chartered accountant in Nigeria and the first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
He was also the first president of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960 and a pioneer in the development of the Nigerian capital market. He was a founding member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and served on its board of directors for many years.
But more than his professional achievements, Williams was known for his gentlemanly demeanor and his willingness to mentor young professionals.
He was born in Lagos in 1926. He studied accounting at the University of London and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1949. He founded his own accounting firm, Akintola Williams & Co., now Deloitte & Touche, in 1952 which became one of the largest and most successful accounting firms in Nigeria.
He was a mentor to many young professionals, both inside and outside of his firm. He was known for his patience, his wisdom, and his generosity. He was always willing to share his knowledge and experience, and he always had time for a new protégé.
“I also know he actively kept an eye out for younger Nigerians rising in the large multinationals in the late 70s and then 80s and mentored and advised them and followed their own careers in the corporate world,” one of Williams’ second generation protégés said.
“I know this because my late dad was one of them and told me himself that he and others were beneficiaries of this uninterested help, even though coming from a village, he had no initial connection to Williams himself,” he said.
Ibikunle Amosun, the former governor of Ogun State, in a statement, described Williams as a father figure to him and that he would miss his words of advice and encouragement.
“On a more personal note, I recall the invaluable support he gave to our administration between 2011 and 2019 and the good people of Ogun State by personally attending our annual budget presentation at the Ogun State House of Assembly. He greatly supported the establishment of the Elderly Home Hostel in Abeokuta. I will miss his fatherly disposition towards me, and his words of advice, and encouragement,” Amosun said.
“Adieu to a great son of Ogun State, one of the progenitors of Ogun Standard,” he added.
Godswill Akpabio, president of the Senate, said Nigeria had lost an icon, an institution, and the father of accountancy. He was a man of truth and honesty who proclaimed the principles of accuracy and integrity with passion, he said.
Akpabio said Williams’ legacy would live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him. He was a true inspiration to many and his contributions to Nigeria will never be forgotten, he added.
“Nigeria has indeed lost an icon, an institution and father of accountancy who stood for truth and honesty and proclaimed the principle of accuracy and integrity with passion, ” Akpabio said.
Another protégé said: “He was such an absolute gentleman. He came to see me in Lagos Business School after I returned to the country with my PhD to tell me he was proud of me too because my dad was his mentee. And I had never so much as exchanged a word with him before that day when he walked up to me of his own accord to tell me so.”
“The accountant is the conscience of the business world,” Williams would always say to his mentees.
He was born to a wealthy family in Lagos on August 9, 1919. He attended Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School and CMS Grammar School in Lagos. In 1941, he was awarded a Diploma in Commerce from the Yaba Higher College.
In 1944, Williams went to the United Kingdom to study accounting. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of London in 1946 and passed the final examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1950.
He returned to Nigeria in 1950 and founded Akintola Williams & Co., the first indigenous accounting firm in Nigeria. The firm grew to become one of the largest professional services firms in the country, providing services to businesses, government agencies, and individuals.
He was also a pioneer in the development of the Nigerian capital market. He was a founding member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and served on its board of directors for many years.
In addition to his business career, Williams was also active in public service. He served as chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners, the Coker Commission of Inquiry, and the Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel. He was also a member of the board of trustees of the Commonwealth Foundation and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.
He received numerous awards and honours, including the Order of the Federal Republic and the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He was also named a Fellow of ICAN.
He died on September 11, 2023, at 104.