Akintola Williams, who celebrated his 104th birthday on August 9, is a trailblazing figure in the Nigerian accounting world. He played a pivotal role in placing Africa on the global accounting map alongside a major South African firm led by Howard Pim. The centenarian explained that several factors, including dedicated teachers and a determination to succeed, contributed to shaping him into the accomplished individual he has become.
Akintola Williams, who turned 104 years old on August 9, is a revolutionary figure in the accounting world, both in Nigeria and on the continent. His role alone in placing Africa on the global accounting map, alongside a South African firm led by Howard Pim, has been pivotal and inspiring.
In a 2011 interview, Williams attributed his longevity to moderation in all aspects of his life. He emphasized the significance of simplicity, avoiding controversies, taking ample rest, and engaging in mental, physical, and spiritual exercises.
“The key to my longevity is moderation. In everything I do, I strive to be moderate – a little of this and a little of that, not too much. Whether it’s what you eat, what you drink, or whatever you do, just be moderate and you’ll live a refreshing, strong, and fulfilling life,” he told Vanguard News.
Due to his academic prowess, he received a United African Company (UAC) scholarship from 1939 to 1941 for higher education at Yaba Higher College in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. Here, he earned a diploma in commerce. He furthered his education at the University of London in 1944, focusing on banking and finance, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce in 1946.
In 1949, at the age of 30, he became a qualified chartered accountant in England – the first Nigerian to achieve this feat.
Williams has explained that several factors, including the dedication from his teachers and a will to succeed, contributed to shaping him into the person he is now.
In various media, he was quoted to have said: “I would say a number of things made it possible for me. First, [there] were masters in the favorite subjects which eventually was necessary for my profession in accounting, namely, mathematics.”
He returned to Nigeria in 1950, working as an assessment officer at the Inland Revenue until March 1952, when he left to establish his own accounting firm, Akintola Williams and Co.
This firm reportedly became the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa, expanding beyond Nigeria to Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Swaziland as well as Ghana, Egypt, and Kenya. As Nigeria gained independence in 1960, his firm developed relationships with significant clients in insurance, utilities, railways, and ports.
Williams retired in 1983 at the age of 64, but he continued to contribute to humanity through mentoring and supporting the growth of other indigenous chartered accountancy firms.
In 2004, his practice merged with two other accounting firms to form Akintola Williams Deloitte (now Deloitte & Touche), the largest professional services firm in Nigeria. While Williams’ leadership contributed to Deloitte’s growth across Africa, he also made an impact beyond accounting, including his involvement in promoting arts, culture, and music.
Williams held key positions, including President of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria and founding President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He played a role in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1960 and remained an advisor to its operators.
The Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation headquarters in Lagos and other honors such as the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 1982 and Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 2001, recognize his outstanding achievements.
In April 1997, Williams was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the accountancy profession and his promotion of arts, culture, and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria.
On May 8, 2011, the Nigeria-Britain Association awarded him for his contributions to democracy and development.
As a pioneer and pacesetter, Williams laid the foundation for numerous institutions in Nigeria. He served on various boards, including the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners, the Coker Commission of Inquiry, and the Commonwealth Foundation.
His contributions have left a lasting legacy, and it’s been said that, even to this day, Deloitte Africa continues to uphold his values and positive impact across the continent.