Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, a former governor, was born on July 21, 1956, and passed away on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.

Akeredolu, a successful lawyer who attained the rank of Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, was born in Owo, Ondo State.

Soon after taking office as President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the brave attorney known by his nickname, Aketi, entered the political arena. In the legal field, he also received the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, or SAN, the highest designation.

Governor of Ondo State Akeredolu held office from February 24, 2017, till his passing.

Many who have paid their respects to the former governor claim that he left behind certain legacies.

His involvement in the founding of the Western Nigeria Security Network, WNSN, popularly known as Amotekun, is the most notable legacy.

Zingtie remembers that at one point, kidnappers, armed robbers, and ritual murders besieged the South West Zone.

The murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the 58-year-old daughter of Afenifere’s leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was one of the significant incidents during that period.

In Ondo State, Olakunrin was assassinated by individuals who were allegedly Fulani herdsmen.

This subsequently incensed Akeredolu and other zone stakeholders to find a long-term solution to the threat.

Zingtie discovered that while a number of informal security groups existed, including Soludrero, Agbekoya, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), and Isokan, the difficult process of establishing Amotekun contributed to the development of the region’s security framework.

To tackle the issue of insecurity in the zone, Akeredolu organised his colleagues, including Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), to form a cohesive local security unit.

The establishment of Amotekun was then approved by the governors in 2019 in an effort to improve the security circumstances in the area.

On Thursday, January 9, 2020, in Ibadan, Amotekun was eventually introduced. Several governors and other local stakeholders were present at the ceremony.

Speaking at the event, Akeredolu stated that the governors and the area had a strong belief in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s unity and indivisible sovereignty.

Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the late governor emphasised that regional governors were fully dedicated to promoting ideas that would strengthen and unite the nation rather than weaken it.

Akeredolu said, “Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is appropriate for me at this juncture, to state that the Southwest States of the Federation believe in the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its indissoluble sovereignty. We are committed, in all ramifications, to the ideals that will make the country stronger and more united.

“The various nation-states within the Federation are diverse, yet almost all of us agree that our strength is in our unity.

“Consequently, we shall continue to support the Federal Government, under the able and indefatigable leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in its avowed commitment and determination to take the country to the next level. Let me on this note thank DAWN Commission for the wonderful job done in crafting the operational framework for Amotekun.

“The Commission has taken care of all grey areas that could cause friction in the operations of the personnel that will be deployed for the programme.

“As a matter of fact, the Nigeria Police will oversee and moderate the activities of Amotekun, thus making its operation conform to the acceptable standards.

“Amotekun is the Yoruba name for the Leopard. It is not the Tiger, Ekun. It is also important that I allay the fears of all those who have expressed misgivings as regards the quality of the personnel to be recruited to serve in the outfit. There is an adequate recruitment mechanism for the exercise. The conventional security agencies will participate, actively, in profiling the recruits.

“Nobody with questionable character will participate in the programme. We will make it difficult for undesirable elements to compound the challenges being encountered. Proper background checks will be carried out on personnel to be recruited while the needed registration/identification of such personnel will be done to ensure accountability.

“Let me seize this opportunity to once again appreciate the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police, State Security Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies for their unrelenting efforts in combating the various crimes threatening peace and security in the entire country.”

How ex-Attorney General, Abubakar Malami opposed creation of Amotekun

The past federal government under former President Muhammadu Buhari was against Amotekun, as the Zingtie remembers.

The former government fiercely opposed the creation of Amotekun through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.

The founding of Amotekun was deemed “unconstitutional” by the federal authorities at the time.

Malami claimed that no known laws in the country supported the founding of Amotekun in a statement that was signed by Umar Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations.

“The setting up of the paramilitary organization called ‘Amotekun’ is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the Army, Navy and Airforce, including the Police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria.

“As a consequence of this, no State Government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organization or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.

“This is sanctioned by the provision of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) authorizing the Police and other Federal Government security services established by law to maintain law and order.

“The law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organization, administration and participation in “Amotekun” or continuous association with it as an association.

“Finally, it is important to put on record that the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was not consulted on the matter. If it had, proper information and guidance would have been offered to ensure that Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity are preserved at all times,” he said then.

The responses of Tinubu, Soyinka, and Afenifere eased tension and made Amotekun more acceptable.

Zingtie remembers that until it died down, the debate over the founding of Amotekun raged for several weeks.

Nigerians, particularly those from the West, started talking about it both at home and in the diaspora.

Bola Tinubu, the president-elect and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which was in power at the time, was among the speakers who supported Amotekun on various occasions.

The other two were Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba social-cultural group, and Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka.

In response, Tinubu accused Malami of behaving rashly in deeming Amotekun unlawful.

In a January 2020 announcement, Tinubu stated, “The Governors claimed they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do. However, their failure to include the office of the Attorney-General in these discussions is the source of the current public uproar.

“This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect. While the Attorney-General is a conscientious public servant, he is also human. Not having been consulted, he was suddenly faced with an unexpected public announcement regarding a matter within his official ambit.

“He likely feared the failure to consult him meant that federal prerogatives were being encroached. To blame him for this conclusion would be to blame human nature itself. Though his negative reaction was understandable it was also unhelpful. The Attorney-General acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been. Amotekun was never proposed as a “defence” agency; the Attorney-General erred in using this description.

“The use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment. Believing the governors had crossed the line, the Attorney-General should have reached out to them. Before going public, he should have sought a private meeting so that he could have a better factual understanding of Amotekun.

“This would have enabled him to give the governors any specific constitutional or other objectives he might have. In this way, the two sides would have engaged in private consultations to reach agreement on the way forward. This cooperative process might have helped to correct some of the organisational lapses above identified. Such a diplomatic and wise step also would have prevented the current public acrimony,” he said.

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, countered Malami.

Soyinka said that Amotekun “has come to stay.”

He condemned the decision of the then Federal Government to outlaw the new security outfit.

“The Amotekun outfit was set up by the SouthWest governors to tackle cases of insecurity in the region which existing security bodies have been unable to address. Operation Amotekun has come to stay,” he said then.

In a similar vein, Afenifere stood by its statement warning the governors of the South West not to be scared off by Malami’s proclamation.

Fasoranti said, “Operation Amotekun is a welcome development, but they were being asked not to do it. The Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, insisted that they would do it.

“I want them to go ahead and do it in the interest of our people; we cannot leave ourselves here, and be helpless in the face of incessant onslaught.

“I think he is talking for somebody. Silence means consent, he is talking the mind of the presidency, that is what they want. It confirms the suspicion that they are trying to protect some interests here in the South-West. I agree with that too, so that they can go on and do what they like with impunity. It is unfortunate.

“It is very bad to leave our people helpless, defenceless and without any succour; without any protection”.

Zingtie claims that Akeredolu supported Amotekun’s path until his death in spite of the opposition.

He stated that Amotekun ought to be granted the right to bear arms if the federal government permitted security groups in some northern states to do so.

According to our correspondent, Amotekun has gained widespread recognition for his swift response to security-related incidents, including kidnapping, armed robbery, and ritual killings. Their service is available from Ondo to Ekiti, Osun to Oyo, Ogun, and certain areas of Lagos State.

With the exception of Lagos, it operates in the six South West states of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun.

The laws establishing Amotekun in each of the five operational states have been passed.

In February 2020, the Ekiti State House of Assembly approved the legislation establishing Amotekun.

In March 2020, Kayode Fayemi, the governor at the time, signed the bill into law.

In March 2020, the Oyo State House of Assembly did the same.

Governor Seyi Makinde then signed the bill into law a few days later.

According to Zingtie, Osun, Ogun, and Ondo have all had comparable accomplishments.

Oyo NUJ tells South West governors to uphold Amotekun in order to immortalise Akeredolu.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and Oyo State Council urged the governors in the area to support the security group in honour of Akeredolu’s contribution to Amotekun’s founding.

The union announced this in a communique following its monthly congress, which was chaired by Comrade Ademola Babalola, the State Chairman.

The three members of the group—Comrade Seye Ojo, Chairman; Comrade Ismail Fasasi, Secretary; and Comrade Mosun Akinola, Member—prepared the communiqué.

It read, “The Congress paid glowing tributes to the immediate past governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN), who died in the early hours of Wednesday December 27, 2023.

“It commiserated with Akeredolu’s family, the people of Ondo State, and South West on his demise after a protracted battle with prostate cancer. It stated that Akeredolu spent a major part of his life in Ibadan and also invested in the city, which made him a rare gem to both Oyo State and Ondo State, his home state.

“The Congress noted that Akeredolu played a significant role in the conceptualisation and formation of Western Nigeria Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun Corps, which has cascaded down to state security networks in the South West, thereby serving as local police in the geo-political zone with a view to improving the security architecture of the zone.

“The Congress said Akeredolu remained the Chairman South West Governors’ Forum before his demise. He was very articulate and battled with the Federal Government till the formation of the Amotekun Corps.

“The Council also commended the gallant effort and bravery of Akeredolu against the onslaught of criminal herdsmen in the zone, which led to the attack on St Francis Catholic Cathedral in Owo, his hometown in Ondo State, during which bandits killed at least 40 worshippers on Sunday June 5, 2022.

“The Congress appealed to the South West Governors to immortalise Akeredolu by upholding his legacies, especially on the formation of the Amotekun Corps.”

We have arrested many people. Oyo Amotekun Commandant

Speaking, Col. Olayinka Olayanju (rtd), the commander of Amotekun in Oyo State, mentioned the numerous accomplishments the security group has made since its founding.

Numerous individuals have been taken into custody, he said.

He mentioned that the police were now handling some of the cases that the security outfit was handling.

During a phone call with Zingtie, Olayanju stated that the people are the ones who can evaluate the security force, not the organisation.

“How can I assess myself? It is the people that will tell you.

“I cannot tell you that. I know that we have made many arrests. Some have been transferred to the police,” he stated.

Akeredolu institutionalised Amotekun prior to his passing – Chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commandants.

Speaking with Zingtie, Adetunji Adeleye, the Chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commandants in the South West, stated that Akeredolu viewed Amotekun beyond himself.

He insisted that without the prior governor, Amotekun could not have accomplished what he has.

Adeleye, who is also the commandant of Ondo State’s Amotekun, said that the previous governor formalised Amotekun’s status as the state’s official grassroots security organisation.

He mentioned that the three main security issues facing the state were conflicts between farmers and herders, armed robberies, and kidnappings.

However, he claimed that since the security group was established in 2020, all issues have been minimised.

According to him, “In Ondo State, we took the lead in signing into law the Amotekun. When I took up the Amotekun in Ondo State, there were three major security issues- armed robbery, kidnapping and farmers/ herders clashes.

“The most prevalent is the farmers/herders clashes. Within one month of resumption, I received about 5,000 petitions and I moved into action. So within my first 90 days, I arrested over 10,000 cows.

“Substantially, we commenced state patrols. Within one month, we ensured a drastic reduction of crime rate in the state. By the end of 2020, we commenced border patrols between Ondo and Osun and Ekiti states. We rescued over 100 kidnapped victims and arrested many kidnappers.

“Along the line in 2021, Akeredolu made sure that the law establishing Amotekun was reviewed, which gave us more opportunities and legal framework to work, as I talk to you today, I have over 5,000 people in the correctional center. We now prosecute directly without the police.

“As I talk to you today, farmers/herders clashes have reduced by more than 80 per cent. Again, armed robbery has reduced, bank robbery is zero.

“I also want to place it on record, if you look at the news, we recently paraded about 62 criminals out of which about 40 of them are kidnappers. We have rescued over a thousand victims since our inception.

“I will tell you that Akeredolu has institutionalised Amotekun as a full-fledged grassroots security outfit in Ondo State. We do all these with active synergy with all security agencies in Ondo State.

“Luckily, I equally doubled as the Corps Commander and S.A. Security to the government of Ondo State and I am equally the Chairman of the Council of Amotekun commandants in the South West, so this gives me such large zeal to coordinate all the Amotekun in the five active states.

“So, I want to place it on record that all these would not have been possible without the backing of governor Akeredolu. It was like he saw it beyond himself”.

The establishment of Amotekun would not have been possible without Akeredolu – Maja-Maja.

Maja-Maja, a Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, asserts that without Akeredolu, Amotekun would not exist as it does today.

In conversation with Zingtie, Comrade Adedina Akinpelu, the group’s coordinator, declared as much.

Akinpelu said Zingtie that the area has seen a decrease in the threat of kidnapping, armed robbery, and conflicts between farmers and herders, which led to the foundation of Amotekun.

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