Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

Dafinone: The uncommon accountant, politician, administrator

Dafinone: The uncommon accountant, politician, administrator

Dafinone

By Clifford Ndujihe

Dafinone

Dafinone

torchbearerSenator 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 was soundly prepared for the vicissitudes of life by the circumstances of his birth, early childhood, itinerant education and exposure. Thus, his morphing into a successful accountant, family man, administrator, politician and elder statesman was not surprising.

Judicial

interpreter

Sired by the famous Chief Tom Omueya Dafinone, a foremost judicial interpreter in the late 20s in Sapele, who later became the interpreter for the entire Warri-Benin Province and by 1933 the Interpreter of the Supreme Court, Dafinone, as a child watched his father, who had 13 wives grapple with issues of truth in private and public life and learned from it. His early childhood education, which criss-crossed Roman Catholic School, Sapele; Government School, Benin; Edo College and Abeokuta Grammar School, where he sat for the Cambridge School Certificate and passed out n flying colours, only helped to firm him up for greater accomplishments in life.

After a chequered public service career, Dafinone announced his arrival on Nigeria’s political landscape with his landslide victory in 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).

Public service: 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.

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.

Compact social life

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. .