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Akeredolu’s death: Who leads South West Governors’ Forum?

The death of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State, South West, was the end of a towering figure who bestrode the nation’s political…

The death of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State, South West, was the end of a towering figure who bestrode the nation’s political firmament like a colossus.

But to the South West geopolitical zone, he was an emerging father figure and a respected voice in the region’s politics being the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum.

As the chairman of the governors of the South West, his leadership has brought together the six South West governors to jointly address issues of regional and economic integration of the South West.

At 67, he was about the fittest and most suitable in age, position and charisma to rally other governors on issues of common interest to the region. The six South West states including Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun and Osun have succeeded in forming a regional bloc to make a joint demand to the central government, jettisoning political affinity to achieve a common cause.

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The formation of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) code-named Amotekun was a major feat achieved by Akeredolu as Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum. The formation of Amotekun in 2020 was a response to the security breaches across the South West states which the security agencies could not control. It was a case of the region taking their destiny in their hand when the six states came together to form the security outfit which has now become part and parcel of the security architecture in their respective states.

Akeredolu despite being a leading member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) damned all the consequences and confronted the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government which was obviously not disposed to the formation of the outfit by setting up the security outfit.  

At the early stage of the formation, the then Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, issued a statement warning Akeredolu and his counterparts in the South West that no state has been authorised to arm any local security outfit.

Akeredolu also stepped on the toes of the Miyyeti Allah’s leadership when he gave a quit notice to herders in his state. Under his leadership, the state passed the anti-open grazing law which barred open grazing by herders in the state and he ensured the other states in the region replicated the same.

So, the formation of Amotekun was a bullet he obviously took on behalf of his colleagues and he was never cowed by the perceived opposition to Amotekun formation by the presidency. To him, the region comes first before political affiliation. Apart from Amotekun formation, Akeredolu was also vociferous in calling for the presidency to be ceded to the South.

In fact, he once said any political party that failed to field a southerner as its presidential candidate in the 2023 election would lose. He was committed to the course of the region without compromising the unity of the country. Akeredolu as a major voice in the South West did not support the Yoruba nation agitation being championed by Sunday Igboho and because of this, he incurred the wrath of the agitators and other self-determination groups.

Akeredolu had at the launch of the Emblem Appeal to flag off the 2022 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebrations at the State Internal Revenue Service Hall, Akure, in December last year  stated that Yoruba Nation agitators should not sacrifice the chance of the tribe to produce the next president in the name of agitating for a Yoruba nation.

“Those clamouring for Oodua Nation will not succeed. People have not laid down their lives for this country for unscrupulous individuals to scuttle it. This country is very important to some of us,” Akeredolu had said.

His statement had irked several Yoruba Nation agitators thereby causing uneasy calm in the South West region at the time the 2023 politicking was at crescendo.

Certainly, Akeredolu’s demise has left a vacuum in the leadership of the South West Governors’ Forum. Who succeeds the legal luminary?

Among the South West governors, there are two People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governors including Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ademola Adeleke of Osun State while others are those of the ruling APC.

Among the three other governors, two are second timers being Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State while Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti is just serving his first term. Certainly, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who succeeds the deceased governor as required by the constitution, may not be favoured to lead the governors’ forum which he has not been well acquainted with.

But who succeeds Akeredolu? This is the next challenge before the governors and the choice of his successor would make or mar the forum championing the western development agenda and a more united western region.

 

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