Continued from last edition
The Sudden End
ARTHUR was determined to spend the Christmas of 1969 with his family in Biafra. He, therefore, spent the months of November and December raising money, acquiring and shipping supplies to Biafra and working out more dependable credit lines that would enable him plan for regular supplies at pre-determinable intervals in the New Year. He had become a close friend of the president of Matra et Vsias, a major manufacturer of arms and weapons in France with which he had been working through the year. He was, therefore, emboldened to discuss with the president, the possibility of Matra granting Biafra some credit-line for the supplies she purchased from the company. Arthur’s difficulty had been that he must pay cash for all purchases, with the implication that he could not make large orders at any time or make the company to commit supplies for the needs of Biafrans to be drawn-upon as and when required within the limits of the credit to be granted.
The president as always showed much sympathy and understanding to Arthur. Georges Pompidou as president had just taken over in France and he confirmed to Arthur that the new government was not going to change the policies of France towards Biafra. He, therefore, suggested that General Ojukwu should put in writing the request of the Biafra government to be granted credit, which he would then discuss with the new French government. In his letter to Ojukwu, Arthur said, “I am sure that such an arrangement will ease quite a lot of our problems if we can pull it through as quickly as possible.”
He received an offer for two fully equipped Cessna airplanes, which he had sent Count von Rosen to inspect on his behalf. The Count confirmed that the planes could fly at 25,000 feet at long range and had provisions for rocket launchers and machine guns. He strongly recommended the planes. Arthur needed Ojukwu’s approval and US$160,000 which he would have to raise.
Meanwhile, Arthur had to go to London to attend a fund raising event by the “Biafra ‘69 Group” in Chelsea. On his return to Lisbon, he found that Ojukwu’s letter for the president of Matra had been unduly delayed for logistical reasons. The president was out of France when the letter eventually arrived and he would not be back for some time. Ojukwu’s letter was to wait for his return and Arthur would follow it up in the new year. He, therefore, had high hopes that things would work differently and better in the New Year. He returned to Biafra on 21st December, 1968 for the holidays only to discover that there was little chance of a holiday. The following day, he had a meeting scheduled for him with the Biafra Air Force. In the days that followed, he was continuously meeting and discussing with Ojukwu.
Early in the morning of 5th January 1970, Ojukwu sent for Arthur. As Arthur arrived at State House, then at Etiti, he met Mr Lionel Finecountry, a very senior police officer and a friend of his. After they had exchanged pleasantries, Arthur asked him about the current position regarding the war. Mr Finecountry gave him a very scary description of the state of affairs at the various war fronts informing Arthur that he was sure the end was very close because the soldiers had lost confidence and were abandoning their weapons and running away. He showed Arthur a pile of guns thrown away by the soldiers, which they had collected from some of the war fronts. “The situation is desperate”, he finally told Arthur. They bade each other goodbye and Arthur moved on to meet with Ojukwu in his private sitting room.
Arthur noticed that Ojukwu was not his usual warm and cheerful self. He seemed depressed and agitated as he narrated to Arthur the situation at the various war fronts and the near total breakdown in Biafra resistance and discipline. He mentioned losses of territories by the Biafran soldiers who were no longer fighting anywhere. He pleaded with Arthur to leave that night for Ivory Coast to brief President Houphouet-Boigny and Professor Kenneth Dike who was Ojukwu’s special representative in Ivory Coast. Arthur was to brief them on the situation on ground and stress that if massive international support was not received in Biafra within the next seven days, the resistance will be crushed and the federal troops would overrun what was left of the republic.
Arthur returned to his home to prepare for the journey. He was scared and worried, wondering how the end would be. On the way, he saw General Alex Madiebo, the general officer commanding the Biafra Army, talking to some people. Arthur stopped to greet him and told him about his trip to Ivory Coast planned for that night, to see what immediate help could be obtained from the French. He then asked the general if, from what he knew, he thought the army could hold for at least a week. Madiebo hesitated and replied that they might and concluded, “I believe they could!” For the first time in the course of the struggle, Arthur was afraid as he contemplated what the end of the resistance would portend.
He went to the Uli Airport to catch his flight. Before he left home, he had heard on BBC Radio world news that the presidents of the African Francophone countries were holding a summit in Libreville, Gabon. Arthur, therefore, asked the pilot to drop him off in Libreville, instead of Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast.
He got to Libreville early in the morning and was met by the Biafran representative there. At about 8am, they went to the guest house where President Houphouet-Boigny was staying. Arthur introduced himself and told the officers there that he had an urgent message from General Ojukwu. He eventually met with President Houphouet- Boigny at about mid-day during a break in the meeting. Arthur relayed Ojukwu’s message to him. He told Arthur that the intelligence message he had received from the French indicated that the Biafra resistance had in fact broken down and the prognosis was that the war was effectively over. He suggested that Arthur should go straight to Paris that night to meet a contact in the French government. He sent Arthur on to Abidjan, in his presidential jet, from where he would take an Air Afrique flight to Paris. Arthur left Libreville at about 2pm for Abidjan.
In Abidjan, Arthur met Professor Dike. He briefed the professor who decided to accompany him to Paris. They flew to Paris on an Air Afrique flight that left that night. The next morning, on 8th January, 1970, they went to meet with the French government official who was waiting for them on the instructions of the lvorian president. There, he told them that the war was virtually over and that all the French personnel in Biafra had been evacuated to Libreville as at the time they were meeting with him in Paris. The official then informed them that there was nothing more the French government could do. Professor Dike and Arthur went back to their hotels, and two days later on lOth January 1970, the BBC announced the end of the war. Dike subsequently returned to the Ivory Coast and Arthur returned to Lisbon to follow the stories about the end of the Biafra resistance.
Arthur always stayed at the Hotel Lutetia whenever he was in Paris and so he was well known in the hotel. As news of the fall of Biafra spread, his friends in the hotel came or called to sympathise with him. He felt a sense of defeat and disgrace. It was particularly hard on him because of the level of commitment he had put into the struggle. For him, it was an end he was not prepared for; certainly not at that time. He soon began wondering why suddenly there was no news from anyone about Biafra; not even from General Ojukwu. The lessons of his experience were to live with him and he felt they made him a better person.
In December 1971, he returned for the first time to Nigeria since the end of the war, arriving in Lagos for the partners’ meeting of Akintola Williams & Co., which prepared the grounds for his final return to Nigeria and to the firm in February 1972.
Contributions to the Development of the Accountancy Profession in Nigeria
In September 1965, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) Act was signed into law by the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. Chief Richard Akinjide, the federal minister of education at the time, presented the bill in Parliament. Mr Akintola Williams stepped down from being chairman of the APAN and Mr F.C.O. Coker became the first president of ICAN; but he also had to step down because his professional qualification was not recognised by the new ICAN Act for direct membership into the institute.
Arthur was outside the country when ICAN was eventually established. As he was then a standing partner in Akintola Williams & Co., the firm automatically registered him as a member of the new Institute. He had returned to Nigeria in November 1966 into the embrace of bitter political turmoil which subsequently ended in the civil war.
When the war ended in 1970, he remained in Europe till the end of 1971. In his absence in 1971, he had been appointed as federal government nominee to serve on the council of the institute by Mr Wenike Briggs, the Federal Minister of Education. The minister was charged by the act to supervise the activities of the Institute and also has the responsibility to nominate and appoint five members of the Council every five years. The other members were elected by members of the institute in a general meeting. Traditionally, however, the institute made recommendations to government regarding suitable members to be appointed as government nominees by the minister. Before his appointment as minister, Briggs had been a practising lawyer with various business interests in Port Harcourt. His businesses were audited by Akintola Williams & Co., whose Port Harcourt offices were run by Arthur before the Nigeria!Biafra War.
When Arthur returned to Nigeria at the beginning of 1972, Mr Akintola Williams informed him that he had been appointed as a government nominee on the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He subsequently presented Arthur to the president, Felix Cardoso and other members at the council at the first meeting he attended after his return. Thereafter, he became a very active member of the council.
In 1973, the council appointed him director of the accountants’ annual conference, a position which he occupied for five years. This brought him in close contact with chartered accountants in various parts of the country. He organised the institute’s annual conferences, which were then rotated each year to different parts of the country.
He later became the treasurer of the institute. Arthur was a member of the team that represented the Institute [ICAN] at the Jerome Udoji Public Service Review Commission, which was established in 1972 “to study and recommend a plausible framework for reorganising the Nigerian public service and give it a solid foundation for administering the Nigerian state”; at hearings of the commission, Arthur and his colleagues defended the position of ICAN against the establishment of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN). His skillful handling of the institute’s interests, conferences and finances won him much admiration in the council and amongst members of the institute.
Arthur had been deeply involved in the conceptualisation of the design of the institute’s secretariat at Idowu Taylor Street in Victoria Island, Lagos. With the support of other senior officials of the institute, Barclays Bank of Nigeria offered ICAN a loan of £400,000 which was guaranteed by some influential members. This loan was however, not drawn because donations received by ICAN and levies paid by members were sufficient for the building and furnishing of the secretariat building. Effective work on the secretariat commenced in 1977 under the tenure ofMr Anthony Ani as ICAN President, and Arthur as Vice-President; and was subsequently completed and opened in 1979, during Arthur’s tenure as president.
Serving in Nigerian Universities
The University of Lagos (UNILAG)
One morning in March 1984, Arthur received a call from Nollah 0. Edun, the company secretary of UAC of Nigeria Ltd., on whose corporate board he was serving, to congratulate him [Arthur] for his appointment as pro-chancellor and chairman of Council of the University of Lagos, UNILAG. Arthur was not aware of the appointment and had not read any of the national newspapers that morning. He therefore, asked whether the appointment was public or based on privileged information, to which Edun replied that it was in the national newspapers. Arthur thanked him as he grabbed a newspaper to search for the pages he had been referred to by Mr Edun. It was the tradition of the military governments in Nigeria to announce appointments through the media. In fact, on a few occasions some Nigerians rejected such appointments (a good example is Chief Obafemi Awolowo).
Arthur was surprised by the appointment, particularly when he had no inkling whatsoever that the government was contemplating such an appointment and that any selection process was ongoing. Arthur thought of his friends in government that could possibly have put him up for consideration for such appointment. He ruled out anyone in the military as he knew no one there well enough to put up his name. He, therefore, turned to the Ministry of Education. He thought of his secondary school friend, Denis Okoro, but ruled him out because his name was on the list he had read in the newspaper as a member of Council for the University oflbadan. His thinking was that Denis could not have appointed himself. He therefore spoke to Teresa Chukwuma, who was the director for higher education at the ministry.
Teresa had been Jackie’s (Arthur’s wife) school teacher at the Queen’s School, Enugu and was a close family friend. She confirmed to Arthur that she had included him in the list because they, at the ministry, thought that the universities under their charge needed to be managed more professionally and by persons who had been exposed to management skills and standards; and she believed that Arthur was well qualified for the role.
Later,speaking about Arthur’s selection Mr Chukwuma said:
The universities were facing serious financial and structural challenges, and we needed Nigerians who were disciplined, had integrity and the technical capability to turn things around. With his background as an accomplished accountant and a renowned person, I thought he was one such Nigerian who could help us out with the things we wanted to achieve. The position of a pro-chancellor is very vital because they work almost on a daily basis, keeping in constant communication with their vice chancellors, though Council itself met only four times a year. We had made a list of all the universities and had to search for suitable persons who could be appointed as Chancellors, pro-chancellors and members of Council. Human beings at certain levels need to be put in certain positions. He could just have been made one of the Council members, but because of his level of experience, he was more than that. I knew he would perform as chairman of Council. I recommended him to the minister, who was happy with the recommendation and remarked that we needed someone like him in university administration.
Arthur’s selection was, therefore, not accidental. His professional credentials and his experience had become public knowledge, particularly amongst people in the public and private sectors of the economy. His hard work and general comportment were common knowledge to many acquaintances and certainly recommended him for higher responsibilities. The belief of government was that he would bring his experience to bear on the development of the institution, as the new government policy then was to ensure that only qualified and credible people were selected to run public corporations and institutions.
After he was sworn into office, he visited the university to familiarise himself with the scope of the responsibility of the pro-chancellor and chairman of Council. His vice chancellor was a surgeon, Professor Akin Adesola, who had previously held the same position at the University of Ilorin. The deputy vice chancellor was a renowned History scholar, Professor Aderibigbe. Arthur’s predecessor in office as pro-chancellor was Chief Dennis Osadebe, former premier of the defunct Mid-Western Region ofNigeria.
Since Arthur was on totally unfamiliar terrain, he made it a point to familiarise himself with the structure and organisation of the university. He called for and studied the minutes of past Council meetings of the previous two years. He then travelled to Asaba in Delta State to meet with his predecessor in office, Chief Dennis Osadebe, first to make his personal acquaintance, and second, to learn from him what he should look out for in the management and administration of the university. The result of all these efforts was that by the first Council meeting he was familiar with the past businesses of the Council; and he chaired the meeting as if there had not been a break in the management and administration of the university.
Arthur soon settled down to the work at the university. Bringing some special skills to the job, he was able to spot quickly various breaches in control mechanism in the administration which the university seemed to have accepted as normal. He asked many questions and suggested several changes to correct the way some businesses were done, which he felt had compromised the affairs of the university. For example, he made sure that every contract proposal was adequately prepared,openly discussed and approved by the Council before the university entered into it.
Arthur would insist that he would not sign anything he had not read and studied. This frustrated the vice chancellor who would rush papers to him indicating urgency, and which Arthur would often return, raising questions and seeking more clarifications. It was Arthur’s belief that any contract openly discussed and approved by the Council could be signed by any appointed officer of the university nominated for the purpose. He never signed any contracts or cheques. Of course, Arthur’s approach to the management of the affairs of the university was resented strongly by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adesola, who believed that he did not need to be quizzed by anyone before receiving approval for his requests. To Arthur, that was wrong.
To be continued August 13, 2016