Book Review of Revolution of Accountancy Profession in Nigeria, a book by Samuel Olumuyiwa Abayomi Sosanya (Omoba Sosanya, for short) at the public presentation of the book on Monday 12 August 2013 at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos.
Reviewer: Olakunle Abimbola, Member, Editorial Board and Columnist, The Nation Newspaper.
This book, Revolution of Accountancy Profession in Nigeria (with a sub-title: History of The National Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, ANAN) and its author, Omoba Samuel Olumuyiwa Abayomi Sosanya, are somewhat reminiscent of “Solomon Grundy”, that famous traditional English nursery rhyme. How alike or unlike Solomon Grundy Omoba Sosanya is will be clear shortly.
But first the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme:
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy.
To start with, Solomon Grundy lived for just seven days. In contrast, Omoba Sosanya has lived for 70 years and still counting – and will continue counting for a long time to come!
Then, apart from birth and death, nothing else was attributed to Solomon Grundy. His was practically a life without purpose, since he was just born, took ill and died.
Again, in the case of Omoba Sosanya, there is a stark contrast. His life, thanks to the Almighty, has a purpose – indeed, many purposes. But the main purpose, it would appear, is the life and life of ANAN.
That is why, I guess, Omoba Sosanya is, at 70, writing about ANAN and not about himself! That is why the prince of Isara, Remo in Ogun State, is today presenting the politics, the commerce and the combat of ANAN’s founding and eventual legal charter, rather than his personal memoirs, documenting the other life odysseys of a 70-year old.
Of course, between Omoba Sosanya and ANAN, there is but a thin line!
As the Omoba himself enthused in the closing pages of the book (p. 342), while fending off reported treachery and perfidy of “enemies” within ANAN itself, after triumphing over the implacable enmity of ICAN: ANAN is Sosanya, Sosanya is ANAN!
To be sure, that may appear a tad immodest. It may indeed communicate some disturbing vibes about the persona of the author. Still, after reading, in this book, the beating “General Sosanya” of the ANAN Army had to take and the psychological siege he had to endure in the battle to claim ANAN its due in Law, in logic and in common sense, you would agree the general has earned every bit of his epaulettes!
Perhaps there is something, in the rustic innocence of Isara, Remo, that breeds rebels with causes! Need I remind you, distinguished audience, that this same Isara is the paternal ancestral homestead of that self-declared Ijegba man, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, and perhaps the most durable rebel with a cause in Nigerian contemporary history?
In fighting the ANAN fight, Omoba Sosanya exhibited Soyinka–like courage, confidence, audacity, stubbornness and sheer brilliance. That perhaps explains the symbol of a lion, gracing the cover of the book, instead of that of the author himself. In ANAN affairs, Omoba Sosanya is nothing short of a lion heart!
ANAN, of course, is The Association of National Accountants of Nigeria. It was formed in 1979 to compete with the older Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), chartered by Parliament in 1965, to train, uphold standards and regulate the practice of Accountancy in Nigeria. But ANAN did not receive its own charter by Decree until 25 August 1993, when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, then as military president, signed into law the ANAN Decree 76 of 1993.
Incidentally, that was two days before Gen. Babangida himself “stepped aside” from power, in the wake of protests against the military annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which the late Basorun MKO Abiola won. It was indeed a close shave for ANAN and its umpteenth quest for legal charter, raging for 14 years between 1979 and 1993.
If Babangida had not signed the ANAN Decree, perhaps other subsequent governments would have, for ANAN’s argument seemed to progressively be gaining grounds against what seemed like ICAN arrogance and blackmail. But it would have been a restart of the process, just as when its incorporation by Parliament, was run aground in the Second Republic Senate in 1983, even after the House of Representatives had passed the ANAN Bill in 1981.
Yet, both ICAN and ANAN share close shaves, either for or against. The ICAN Act of 1965 was, for instance, run through Parliament in a single day and signed into law in September 1965. Less than four months later, on January 15, 1966, the First Republic was terminated by a military coup. That was a close shave: maybe subsequent governments might have taken their time on the ICAN Bill and delayed its legal charter.
That would not have been so bad, given the lack of rigour of the ICAN Act, which would come back to plague the Nigerian Accounting industry. When you charge professional oligopolists with industry monopoly, what you get is chartered impunity. The author was therefore spot on in his opening sub-heading, on page 1 of the book: “Monopoly: Sole preserve of impunity”.
That would explain why ICAN, before the ANAN challenge, produced 45 “chartered accountants” between 1965 and 1978 (a period of 13 years; an average of less than four in a year!) and over 300 between 1979 and 1981, just two years after ANAN’s founding. Whatever other factors responsible for the rather slow start, it is curious that ICAN only gathered pace (even if it was too little, too late) when it sensed the ANAN challenge.
Still, it is debatable if ANAN itself could have behaved any better, in ICAN’s pole position. Monopoly and its illicit gravy is, after all, no exclusive vice of anyone! The problem therefore was charging ICAN alone with not only training accountants but also setting “standards” – not only for its trainees alone, but for every intending accounting trainee in Nigeria, in what presaged an everlasting monopoly. That was open to abuse, and it would appear ICAN fully milked that lacuna.
ANAN’s close shaves came with running into the brick wall, each time it was close to a legal charter. After the House of Representatives passed the ANAN Bill in 1981, it ran into a ditch in the Senate in 1983. With the military overthrew of the Second Republic on December 31, 1983, after a hopelessly rigged general election, it was back to the starting line in ANAN’s bid for legal charter.
As Senator Onyeabo Obi (no friend of the ANAN cause) noted in his illuminating contribution to the ANAN debate in the Second Republic Senate, ANAN needed a Parliamentary charter to get a bite from the rich Nigerian accounting and auditing pie, since the then extant Companies Act, as well as the ICAN Act, restricted the auditing of companies to only ICAN members. Still, there was hardly a crime from the ANAN end. Why should public accounting and auditing be the exclusive preserve of a group of citizens to the exclusion of others with similar qualifications and competence?
ICAN however demurred on this premise. To it, ANAN members were accounting flotsam and jetsam; veteran failures that could not have attained, or could ever attain, the “standard” required to break into that lucrative business. But the snag is ICAN’s “standard” would appear permanently locked in the closet of its few members’ whims and caprices – at least that is the impression Omoba Sosanya gives in this book. ICAN was therefore determined to retain the status quo, whatever it took, and for as long as possible. Such was the fierceness of the titanic war to stop ANAN, perhaps at all costs.
Indeed ICAN’s pervasive influence and fearsome propaganda, most of it not based on reasoned arguments but on legal grandstanding or just wily filibustering to gain time and wrong-foot the younger accountancy body, were responsible for ANAN’s many near misses.
Even at the tail end of the struggle in 1993, these two exchanges between Omoba Sosanya and two solicitors-general and permanent secretaries in the Federal Ministry of Justice, hostile to the ANAN cause, are instructive:
Mr. Awosika: It will be over my dead body that another body of accountants will be established by Decree to compete with my friends.
Sosanya: You have prayed and God Almighty will answer you (p. 285). Some months later, Mr. Awosika died in office, to be replaced by Professor Akanle.
Akanle: There will be no ANAN Decree as long as I am on the seat as permanent secretary.
Sosanya: Amen, you will not be on the seat when ANAN Decree will be promulgated (p. 289). Prof. Akanle was retired before August 25, 1993, when the ANAN Decree was signed, as part of some 100 plus decrees, which Gen. Babangida signed before leaving office!
Now, was there some divine intervention in the eventual ANAN charter? Maybe, as the author declared. And maybe not, as many others would argue: it was about time ANAN’s hard work, persistence and reasoned arguments paid off.
Even then, despite his plucky response to Prof. Akanle’s threat, Omoba Sosanya would appear to resort to bluff and bluster to keep his own spirit alive. At that point, particularly the last presentation to, and exchange with Prof. Akanle, even most of the ANAN Council members had virtually resigned themselves to a seeming starkness: that the ANAN Decree was a mission-impossible. The author’s sole companion on that trip was Mr. Samuel Nzekwe, who he described as “a young member of ANAN”.
Even with the signing of the ANAN Decree and its official gazetting, the gripping drama and anti-ANAN manoeuvre by ICAN never lost its intensity till the bitterest end.
For one, Omoba Sosanya had to virtually shadow the decree from the Federal Ministry of Justice on Broad Street, Lagos, guide it to the Government Printer at Apapa, pay for the printing with other decrees, closely monitor the printing over a period of time, pay for transport to ship the printed gazette back to Federal Government Bookshop on Broad Street, Lagos, send his staff to buy 10 copies of the gazette, and finally leak the gazette to radio, television and newspapers to be sure ICAN would not use its overwhelming influence to kill the decree! Indeed, for ANAN, the fear of ICAN antics would appear the beginning of wisdom!
For another, ICAN, under the presidency of Mrs. Olutoyin Olakunrin, lobbied the Abacha government to scrap the ANAN Decree since, she claimed, it was promulgated in deceit. That ICAN memo to the government elicited a no less fierce riposte by ANAN president, Omoba Sosanya. That ICAN memo also prompted an ANAN courtesy visit to the new Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, who nevertheless congratulated ANAN on its new status but charged it to put Nigeria first in whatever it did.
Still, there was nothing novel in the Olakunrin late rally to nail ANAN, even with its decree signed and gazetted. Indeed, beginning with the doyen himself, Mr. Akintola Williams, ICAN’s first president and Nigeria’s first chartered accountant, every ICAN president during the 14-year campaign, stiffly opposed ANAN all of the way.
Even ICAN president, Otunba A.O. Ogunde, who proposed that ICAN membership be opened to The Association of International Accountants (AIA) members, had his proposal shot down by the ICAN Council, reportedly led by Mrs Olakunrin and Basorun J.K. Randle.
The ANAN founding triad, who Omoba Sosanya referred to as “The Three Men of History” (Chapter 5): Sosanya himself, Olalere Akanbi Kolawole and Iyiola Olufemi Odefisayo, are all AIA members. And so were all of ANAN’s eight foundation members, except one. According to its website, AIA was founded in the UK in 1928, has over 7,000 members and 8, 500 students in over 85 countries. Although the UK Government affirms AIA “as Recognised Qualifying Body for statutory auditors under the Companies Act 2006,” and “as a Prescribed Body under the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003 in the Republic of Ireland”, ICAN somewhat holds that its products were inferior to those of other UK chartered accounting bodies like the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA), among others.
So, Otunba Ogunde’s proposal was a sort of envelope-and-swallow strategy that could abort the ANAN charter but which was rejected by Omoba Sosanya. Mr Akintola Williams had earlier dismissed the 1979 newspaper advert that announced the birth of ANAN, proclaiming that ANAN would die a natural death. But as reggae star, Jimmy Cliff sang in one of his famous numbers, the bigger anti-ANAN elements came, the harder they fell!
Beyond the whoop of victory and the whimper of defeat, however, what ICAN and ANAN offer are two contrasting but competing methods of training professional accountants. ICAN appears, at least from the contents of this book, comfortable with the age-old articleship. Though these offer accounting and audit firms cheap labour, it opens the profession up to entrants, even as low as senior secondary school graduates.
On the other hand, ANAN offers post-tertiary training via the Nigerian School of Accountancy, a concept close to the Nigerian Law School model. That means the ANAN route offers fresh university and polytechnic graduates in accountancy better remuneration, even during their post-Accountancy College work to gather experience, before enrolment as ANAN members. But ANAN’s minimum academic entry point is a university and polytechnic degree. That seems to block the way to school certificate holders hoping to pursue Accountancy as a profession.
Whichever method is better, let the market decide! But before that, let professional standard be determined by a body independent of both ANAN and ICAN. That is the long and short of the ANAN argument.
This 20-chapter, 386-page book, complete with a “Photo of Events” chapter, is a must read for students of Accountancy history from the very early times in Assyria, Babylonia and Sumerian civilisations, to Italy where Luca Pacioli’s immense contributions were well established and Britain, the bastion of the Accountancy profession in the modern era, not leaving out the politics, business and dynamics of accountancy in today’s Nigeria. It is indeed a fact-filled book that every accountant or intending accountant would benefit from.
The book’s most serious setback is lack of indexing. That is a major setback, if the book must satisfy international readership, interested in accounting practice in Nigeria. Also, the publishers should work hard on removing typographical errors, in the second edition.
Over all however, this book is the story and travails of ANAN well told by the man who was its founding president and its leader for the first 14 years of its tempestuous war for legal recognition. It is indeed, as Chief Obafemi Awolowo put it in those tempestuous early days, the pithiest rendition of the “revolution of accountancy profession, audacity of Sosanya.”
I must not conclude this review without congratulating Omoba Sosanya, on a highly revealing and riveting book.
And my tribute is simple: Omoba Sosanya, at 70, ANAN is your life!
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your patience and for listening.
First published on August 13, 2013