By Clifford Ndujihe
SENATOR David Omueya Dafinone, 88, is an accomplished accountant, administrator and erudite politician. The patriarch of the Dafinone family, an accounting family listed in the Guinness book of records as having the largest number of accountants in one family, is the proprietor of D.O Dafinone & Company, which he founded in 1966 and later merged to become Horwath Dafinone and Company.
Born on March 12, 1927 in Sapele, Delta State, Dafinone announced his arrival on Nigeria’s political landscape with his landslide victory inn Bendel South Senatorial election in 1979 when he was 52 years old. Then Delta was under defunct Bendel State, which has now been broken into two – Edo and Delta.
Running on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, he polled 59,632 votes to beat Thompson Salubi of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN (24,874 votes) and E.E.E Idigbo of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP (20,760 votes).
As a senator, Dafinone, who owns the Ceddi Plaza, Abuja, was one of the leaders of the movement for the creation of Delta State in the 1980s and and the efforts yielded dividends in 1991.
The nationalist, who is a member of The Patriots, a group of eminent elder statesmen, of late, has been leading the Union of Niger Delta, a non governmental environmental and social justice pressure group.
Growing up: Dafinone attended Government School, Benin, from 1934 to 1938 and Edo College, Benin, from 1939 to 1942. Between 1943 and 1945, the young Dafinone moved to Abeokuta Grammar school where he remained until he completed his secondary education and emerged as the overall best candidate in Mathematics in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination in West Africa for that year.
This feat automatically won him a scholarship from the then Governor of Northern Nigeria, L. H. Gobble, to further his studies overseas.
Brilliant career: Dafinone joined the civil service on August 28, 1946 as a third class clerk in the Registration and Records Department under the supervision of Mr. E. Ejueyitchie, the administrative officer in the Finance Department. In 1948 when Mr. Ejueyitchie was transferred to the Zaria Training Institute, Dafinone was appointed Acting Administrative officer in the Finance Department.
At 21, the consummate accountant was saddled with the responsibility of preparing the native treasury estimates for the entire Northern Nigeria. The task entailed the entire paper work on revenue and expenditures of the entire 92 native treasury in Northern Nigeria.
Any time the estimates were prepared, they were taken before a special Finance Committee appointed by the colonial administration for approval before they eventually received the Governor’s consent. In that committee were five other notable Nigerians – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, Alhaji Aliyu Makaman Bida and Alhaji Yahaya Madawakin Ilorin.
Given his excellent performance as Acting Administrative Officer in the Finance Department as well as Assistant Secretary to the Special Finance Committee of the Big Five, Dafinone was recommended for the First Devonshire Course in Public Administration at the University of Exeter in August 1951, where he spent two years and obtained a Diploma in Public Administration.
On completion of the course, Dafinone was advised by the then Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Arthur Richards, who had much knowledge of his performance in Kaduna to read for a university degree if he must come home to cope with the challenges of development in Sub-Saharan Africa. He thus enrolled for a degree in Economics (with specialization in accounting) in 1953 at the University of Hull. He transferred to the University of London as an external student in 1956 where he graduated in 1958. He immediately enrolled for his professional examinations with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
In the same year, he joined J.A. Miles and company, a firm of chartered accountants as an articled clerk. He served his term for three years with the firm and having passed his professional examinations, he was admitted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in November 1963.
Chartered accountant: Back home, Dafinone qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Nigeria in 1970 and joined Delloites, Haskins and Sells, a firm of Chartered Accountants as an audit manager. In spite of the heavy load of work he shouldered at Delloites, he maintained a compact social life. He hobnobbed with several Federal Ministers of the First Republic such as Chief Festus Okotie Eboh and Sir Balewa. He also on several occasions assisted the Prime Minister in drafting some of his short questions and answers in the parliament.
On August 18, 1966, he founded a firm of chartered accountants registered in the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the registration of Business Names Act of 1961. He named the firm after himself; D. O. Dafinone & CO. (now Horwath Dafinone).
In 1967, the then Head of State General Yakubu Gowon appointed him into a three-man commission to investigate the assets of public officers in the then Mid-West State of Nigeria. He worked for several months on the commission, but at the end of the day had to make independent, minority recommendations because he found some aspects of the initial report not agreeable with his personal convictions.
In 1969, the Gowon Administration again appointed Dafinone a Commissioner under the Ports Amendment Decree of 1969 to serve as the Federal Government Arbitrator with Justice Fatayi Williams as Chairman to take over the Port of Warri and Calabar from the United African Company Limited. From 1964 to 1970, he sat on various Commissions as Administrator and member for the Apapa Road Project tribunal together with Justice Adefarasin as chairman.
In 1971, he was appointed Sole Commissioner by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to investigate the affairs of the Nigeria Pools Company Limited.
Having excelled on the jobs he was assigned especially during the war years, General Gowon in 1971 appointed Dafinone as a non-executive Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, where he served in various capacities. He was at different times, the Chairman of the Monetary and Banking Policy Committee and the Recruitment Committee.
His politics: In September 1978, when the administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo lifted the ban on partisan politics, he joined the NPN and with the likes of Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir and others, they wrote the NPN manifesto inside his office on Broad Street, Lagos.
Informed by the call by his people to lead, rather personal ambition, it was therefore not surprising Dafinone’s political journey was very successful.
At first attempt, he was elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1979, representing former Bendel South (now Delta Central in Delta State) senatorial zone.
Mobilising and impacting on his Urhobo people: Before long, he used election to reposition the Urhobo ethnic group which had been dogged by factional fighting among various interest groups. He started the Urhobo Development Association, UDA with other prominent sons of Urhobo to provide purposeful leadership for the people in the 80s.
In the Senate, he served as Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Industries, National Planning and Steel Development between 1979 and 1983. He was re-elected for a second term in 1983.
He consistently supported the creation of new state as a means of ensuring good governance. As the NPN caucus leader in the Senate, he had a working arrangement with the other parties. Thus on several issues of national interest, he was able to muster his colleagues for the Alhaji Shehu Shagari Administration. He showed an unflinching commitment to the promotion of high standards in the practice of the accountancy profession in Nigeria.
Return to private sector
Following the truncation of the Second Republic by the Military, Dafinone returned to the private sector. However, he was appointed in 1987 as consultant to carry out a detailed organizational, financial, technical and management review of the country’s steel mills with a view to providing information for their partial privatization and commercialization.
Dispute resolution capabilities
Known for his excellent dispute resolution capabilities, he was also appointed to Arbitrate the dispute between the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Limited and Thomas de la Rue limited of the United Kingdom in 1990.
Between 1990 and 1991, Senator Dafinone was appointed as a consultant to the Federal Government to source funds for the completion of the Lagos Third Mainland Bridge Project, while serving as a committee member to review the administration of indirect Taxation in Nigeria.
Founding the PDP: With the end of the Abacha regime in June 1998 and the beginning of General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition to civil rule programme, Dafinone joined forces with like minds to found the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. He thereafter aspired to lead the country as her president, for which he mobilised men and resources to begin the Dafinone for President campaign.
However, the dream was aborted in mid-September of 1998 due to a protracted illness. He was flown abroad and after four months he recovered fully. By January of 1999 when he returned, political activities had gone too far to be reversed in his favour.
Undaunted, Dafinone later joined the National Democratic Party, NDP but his desire to fly the party’s presidential flag in 2003 was not successful as he lost the ticket to Senator Ike Nwachukwu.
The Second Republic Senator, who in the last 48 years has mounted a strong campaign for the emancipation of the people of Niger Delta and for equitable distribution of the resources of the country, is a successful industrialist.
He also went into joint venture Partnership with multinationals to establish two industries in roofing materials and rubber processing plant in Sapele Local Government of Delta State. Dafinone constructed a multi- purpose building named Ceddi Towers in the Central District Area of the Federal Capital City, thereby offering employment to hundreds of Nigerians through various businesses that he presides over.
As a versatile player, Senator Dafinone is a member of various international organizations. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute of America, an organization with an asset value of $93 trillion, since 1992 and was elected to the Public Private Partnership Council of the same body in November 1994. He was elected a fellow of the National Geographical Society of Great Britain in 1990.
Awards, honours: His humanitarian service manifest in various forms, particularly his pivotal role in the construction of the Orodje of Okpe’s palace, a project that was completed in 1997. He has also been functioning as Chairman and Patron of sundry bodies in Okpe Kingdom.
In recognition of his immense and selfless contributions to the socio-economic and political development of Okpe Kingdom, he was honoured in 1997 with the traditional title of Owhere 1 of Okpe Kingdom by the Orodje of Okpe.
An award of Certificate of Excellence for professional practice by the Delta State Government was also given to Senator Dafinone in September 1997. In 2001, he was awarded the ICAN Certificate of Merit for Outstanding contributions to the Accounting profession by the institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria. And in 2003, the Federal Government conferred on him the National Honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic, OFR.
On August 1, 2000, Guinness World Records recognized Senator Dafinone as the patriarch of the Family with the highest number of Chartered Accountants (who are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England Wales) in one nuclear family – a recognition that has received resounding ovations from far and wide. In 2006, he received a ‘definite entry’ in the Cambridge Blue Book for an outstanding contribution in the field of Accountancy.
Married to Chief Cynthia Watson Dafinone, the elder statesman, is blessed with three sons and two daughters. Interestingly, all of them are qualified and chartered accountants, a world record. They all had degrees in Economics. They are all, today working for the same firm, Horwath Dafinone.