The death of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State in the South West, marked the end of a political giant on the national stage.
Within the South West geo-political zone, Akeredolu was not just a governor but an emerging father figure and a highly regarded voice due to his role as the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum.
As the head of the South West governors, Akeredolu’s leadership successfully united the six states, including Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, and Osun, to collaboratively address regional and economic integration issues.
At the age of 67, Akeredolu was a charismatic and fitting leader who effectively rallied the governors on matters of shared interest, transcending political affiliations to form a united front.
A notable accomplishment during his tenure as Chairman was the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), known as Amotekun, in 2020. This security outfit was a response to uncontrollable security breaches across the South West states, solidifying its place in the region’s security architecture.
Despite being a prominent member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Akeredolu fearlessly challenged the federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari, particularly in the formation of Amotekun. He stood firm in the face of warnings from the presidency.
Akeredolu also clashed with the leadership of Miyyeti Allah by issuing a quit notice to herders in his state. Under his leadership, Ondo State passed an anti-open grazing law, influencing other South West states to adopt similar measures.
Beyond Amotekun, Akeredolu advocated for the presidency to be ceded to the South in the 2023 elections, emphasizing his commitment to the region’s interests without compromising national unity.
Despite being a major voice in the South West, Akeredolu did not support the Yoruba nation agitation led by Sunday Igboho, earning him the disapproval of agitators and self-determination groups.
His statements against the Yoruba Nation agitators, made at the launch of the 2022 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebrations, stirred controversy and tension in the South West during the 2023 political season.
Akeredolu’s death created a leadership vacuum in the South West Governors’ Forum. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has two governors in the region—Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ademola Adeleke of Osun State—while the ruling APC holds the majority.
Among the three other governors, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State are second-term leaders, while Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti is in his first term.
The constitutionally mandated successor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, may face challenges leading a forum unfamiliar to him.
The critical decision of Akeredolu’s successor will significantly impact the forum’s advocacy for western development and regional unity.