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Angels in police uniforms By Tunde Odesola

His parents named him Edison – after an American – Thomas Edison, who invented the lightbulb, motion picture camera and the revolutionary music box known today as the turntable, among 1,093 patents. But no one calls him Ed(i)son, people call him Pelé, a name, which he initially rejected, long before the name became synonymous with soccer immortality.

Born Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, the name Pelé was borne out of a childhood joke a preteen friend cracked on the street of Três Corações, São Paulo. The joke was on Pelé. Like many nicknames are creations of error or mischief or both, some innovations like the Penicillin, microwave, fireworks, saccharin and potato chips were produced in error, too. But Pelé loved his nickname, Dico.

Call it rags-to-riches or grass-to-grace supplication, the thunderous reversal-of-fortune prayers by Nigerians in endless religious revivals, crusades and vigils underscore the country’s biting poverty amid government’s impotence. I’ve worshipped in white churches in the US, they don’t shout, “Fire! Fire! Kill them! Strike them! Destroy them!” 

In church, Americans pray for the safety of their immediate community, national economy and prosperity, even as they express their desire to make paradise. Whether in church, at leisure or at work, many Americans have their guns tucked away under their car seats, that is, if the guns are not strapped in (concealed) holsters on their bodies.

Verily, I say unto you, brethren, the rejected name, Pelé, cannot become a global brand without hard work. When people seek the face of God in churches, mosques shrines etc, praying for their shame to be turned into fame through a ‘s’egan mi d’erin’ miracle, they should also work hard, face their fears, and not feed them. 

Self-educated, Thomas Edison surely had his fears but he didn’t feed them. He believes hard work is superior to genius, and he crystallises his thought in this famous quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

In an interview, Pelé, the Brazilian soccer god, discloses the origin of his nickname in smattering English. “We used to say in Brazil, my name was Edson Arantes Do Nascimento because now everybody recognises only Pelé. If you say Edson in some place, nobody knows who he is. When I was around 8-9 years old, a little boy in the street called me Pelé.

“For me, that time, it was ugly (the name Pelé), you know, because I got mad with him. I said, ‘Hey, my name is Edson, why you call Pelé? What you mean Pelé?’ Everybody starts to laugh. I don’t know if it was a joke, or (because) I did (something) wrong or (I got some) pronunciation wrong; nobody know up till now why (what it means). I just remember I fight with him; I was in the school, I got three day suspended because he called Pelé, (I) say my name is Edson, this ugly name I don’t like. But now, I like it because it’s an easy name to pronounce.”

Unofficial sources say owing to his innocence and thick Minas Gerais accent, Pelé mispronounced the name of Vasco de Sao Lourenco’s goalkeeper, Bilé, as Pilé, a slip his childhood friend wasn’t ready to overlook, dipping Pilé into the frying pan of mockery to make the world a sumptuous meal called Pelé. 

Bilé the goalkeeper was a teammate of Pelé’s father, João Ramos do Nascimento, nicknamed Dondinho, who scored five headed goals in a match, a feat which Pelé publicly coveted but failed to achieve. 

Regarded by fans as the king of jogo bonito – the beautiful game, Pelé, who was declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government in 1961, died of colon cancer complications in Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein hospital, on December 29, 2022, aged 82. His soul has been resting in peace thenceforth.

Though the Nigeria Police Force was established in 1930, its origin could be traced to Lagos, with the creation of a 30-man Consular Guard in 1861. Unlike the name Pelé, however, the name, Nigeria Police Force, wasn’t a product of an error. The naming of the force was deliberate.

Naming the nation’s foremost law enforcement agency the  Nigeria Police Force wasn’t a brand blunder aka misbranding. However, you may describe the naming and its claims as puffery – a parlance in advertising that defines exaggerated and untrue claims about a product or service. The motto of the NPF, “The police is your friend,” comes to mind.

Despite not supporting the revisionism change of the national anthem by the Bola Tinubu administration and being contemptuous of the CHANGE mantra the Muhammadu Buhari administration paid lip service to for eight years, an incident happened on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, which gave a ray of light that all hope is not lost in Nigeria.

On the fateful day, I was in company with my friend, Wole Adeniyi, a chartered accountant. We were coming from Ekiti State en route to Lagos when I decided to pay Osun a glancing visit. We had visited WEMA Bank and UBA in the city capital and were heading towards the Ajegunle area from Olonkoro when I urged Wole to indulge me pay an unscheduled visit to the Asiwaju Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Dr Tunde Badmus, who lives in Osogbo.

As we neared the roundabout at Dugbe, vehicular traffic was building up. When we came within sight of the roundabout, I noticed policemen in an unmarked black colour mini bus popularly called ‘Korope’ were harassing a young driver of a black 2013 Toyota Camry in a heated argument. 

“Kilo n sele,” I asked the young man as our vehicle snaked its way abreast of the scene. “They want to cheat mi ni o. They said I hit them, look at my car, look at their bus. They want to cheat me o!” I told the young man, “Don’t move, just stay right there. I’m coming.”

I turned to Wole, “Please, park.” “You said Asiwaju is likely to go and play golf. You will miss him,” gentleman Wole cautioned. “No, I won’t,” I stated, hopping out of the vehicle as Wole meandered in search of a place to park.

I walked back to the roundabout, took a look at the scene and it was as clear as a full moon on a starless night that the police vehicle was the one that hit the Camry. The armed policemen from the State Tactical Squad were telling the driver to move his car to the divisional police station which is just two blocks away. “Don’t move your vehicle,” I told the driver as I took many pictures and videos from different camera angles. The policemen took pictures, made some markings on the road and verbally added ‘obstruction of traffic and causing tension on the road’ to the numerous ‘offences’ of the Toyota driver, which included ‘wilful stopping of police vehicle bearing criminal suspects’.

A shouting match ensued. “You people are wrong. Your vehicle hit the Toyota from the side,” I told the policemen. “No, he hit us from behind,” they said. “If he hit you from behind, why is there no scratch at the back of your bus or the front of his car?” I asked. “Are you a policeman,” they responded, probing: “who are you sef, can you identify yourself? “I will identify myself to your commissioner,” I retorted.

Just then, a clean man in mufti walked to the scene, inspected the two vehicles, took pictures, made some markings on the road and told the two parties to come to the nearby station with him so the rage on the road could abate. The young driver looked at me, I told him to drive the car to the station. Wole and I went back to our car and drove to the station.

At the station, the clean man in mufti,  Mr Eyinade Ifeoluwa, whom I later identified as the Divisional Traffic Officer, conferred with the Divisional Police Officer, Mr Akinloye Oyegade, who came out to listen to both parties. Osun State PUNCH correspondent, Bola Bamigbola, joined the fray at this point. 

After extensive talks, the DPO said the DTO had briefed him, adding that he was waiting for the Tactical Squad policemen who went to the state headquarters to return before he would make the result of police investigation on the case known. 

Inside the station, Wole, Bola and I engaged the DPO and the DTO in further talks. I told them of the respect I have for the police, recalling my interventions on behalf of the police.

The next statement of the DPO moved me to tears. “As I said earlier, we have conducted our investigation and we know who’s at fault. Road accident investigation is the easiest thing to conduct for the police. I’m waiting for the policemen to come back from the state headquarters. They are the ones at fault. When they return, I’ll tell them the three options open to them: beg the driver, if he agrees, good; if he doesn’t agree, they will repair his car. If they don’t, I will take the next step.”

The policemen arrived from their assignment and the DPO told them they were at fault, giving them the options available. As they were talking with the driver, I left my phone number with the driver as I left the station.

Nigeria is redeemable.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
X: @Tunde_Odesola

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