Jeroboam was in residence in Israel, but didn't feel safe. The place of worship for them was still in Jerusalem. If the Israelites continued to travel to Jerusalem, they might transfer their loyalty to Rehoboam.
He felt his own rule and life were in danger. On advice, he had two gold calves constructed. He said, "Now you don't have to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship. Look, here are your gods that brought you out of Israel." Read Exodus 32:1-8 for background of how this was really a bad idea.
When any of us feel the loss of God, do we seek tangible substitutes?