Jose Mourinho is the unpredictable, irritable yet unforgettable Portuguese soccer coach renowned for a host of feats confounding forecasters. He took clubs to great heights in his in-form days. Few tenderers of his era have matched his history: he has won a domestic title record in four different countries; he is one of only three managers to have lifted the UEFA Champions League twice with two different clubs; he is the first manager to clinch a European hat-trick, after winning the inaugural 2022 Europa Conference League with Roma, having previously secured the Champions League and the Europa version.
What’s the magic, if there’s any, that earns you prized international accolades in such a gritty sport? Once, in the newsroom of a popular TV station in Lagos, I listened as an analyst previewing a Mourinho match, attempted an answer; he sought a ‘’demystification’’ of the ways of the 60-year-old who calls himself the “Special One’’. He said all you needed to second-guess the Portuguese in a game was to look closely at his starting selection; it would lead you straight into his secret.
On this occasion, Mourinho’s Chelsea was facing a heavy-scoring side in the English Premiership League. The coach fielded Nigeria’s Mikel Obi and two or three others in irregular positions to begin the game. Upon noticing this tactical formation, our analyst concluded that ‘’Chelsea would play a defensive game to deny little access at goal for even the deadliest strikers in the world.’’ He predicted finally: ‘’With this Mourinho approach, the favoured visitors won’t get any chance at goal; nor would Chelsea attempt deep forays beyond their defensive wall into the opponents’ 18.’’ I think the forecast came to pass: although not a drab show in the long run, the match ended goalless.
I have lately been reminded of these winning ways of a famous football figure following the appointment of Frank Emeka Mba as the Commissioner of Police, CP, of Ogun State in Nigeria’s southwest. As in the field of soccer, where a discerning coach aligns his team in recognition of the perceived or experiential threat of the opposite side, the Police authorities have brought into the Ogun scene not only an officer to prevent crime, but also to fight it if and when it erupts. So, as soon as Mba was named as the new CP in the Gateway State, observers came to the conclusion that, given his background of a string of successful exploits where he has operated, he’s here to upset the old order and still the storm of criminality in Ogun.
Clearly, the Police undertook an avid reading of the security portfolio in the state and the outcome is that a figure would be needed now to change the game from a normal run to an asymmetrical style. The authorities would appear to have taken the Mourinho course in giving the citizens Mba to police the state. A Mourinho wouldn’t battle you with the conventional rules in the books. He’d be guided largely by a determination to contain you as you throw in your best. One moment of a Mourinho-contrived tactical slip by the ambushed, mortally harassed, pressed and stressed enemy during the skirmishes would be the invitation for the killer move.
That’s been Mba’s style. Newsmen who covered his days as Assistant Commissioner of Police at State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Lagos State, say he established a policing standard whose hallmark was countering violent extremism while identifying with his community. Crime beat journalists have also spoken of Mba’s habitation in Ajah, a mixed-multitude haven of the hoi polloi and patricians. There as Area Commander, Mba reportedly took the battle to the doorsteps of the criminals; in some instances he neutralized them before their operation. Where they went ahead of him, Mba nonetheless didn’t give up. He put up a chase, leading to significant arrests and subsequently, a fall in crime stats in the area under his watch. These are the primary functions of scientific policing: preventing crime and defeating it if it shows its vile and venomous visage.
But in Ogun, a state speeding to overthrow the crime leaders, Mba the troubleshooter would need to go outside the box and rifle through his own ideas bag for innovative strategies. I believe the Police Command saw in him a man who could read a festering situation and respond in real-time to tame it. Ogun borders a bursting Lagos which is emptying its flotsam and jetsam into Ota, the state’s economic hub. It is just a neat example of where the best of policing should take place. It has a long stretch of road that opens Nigeria to the whole of the West Coast of Africa and, indeed the world. It boasts an assembly of manufacturing plants second only to Lagos in all of the southwest. It is home to more universities than most of the country’s urban centres. These vibrant features combine with other economic, cultural and social facets of the state to make it an alluring investment destination.
Yet if insecurity is allowed a free ride in Ogun, this massive potential would remain latent and void growth and development not only in the state, but also in Nigeria, because within the state are revenue-bringing holdings benefiting the country.
The CP will realize that Ogun is troubled by an army of kidnappers, armed robbers, rival cultic groups etc. who have terrorized the community and put progress on hold, despite the laudable efforts of government and security bodies. Mba must complement what has been done with other initiatives he successfully applied elsewhere.
Mba would also be expected to work with the government to free Ogun from the vicious grip of land grabbers (omo onile) whose activities have retarded the development of Ota. There’s a law barring them from their exploitative business. But it seems this piece of utilitarian legislation has gone into a retreat.
The new CP, as an experienced public relations person (three times he was appointed Police PRO, one of which saw him as Force PRO in Abuja), would need to work closely with the community and the media in the state. These platforms are veritable structures required in building trust between the Police and the people. Lack of mutual trust is responsible for lack of vital information-sharing in our society. The Police under Mba can thaw the icy situation by letting his men and officers establish more friendly presence in the society, notably in the inner communities. The Police must be our friend, in deed, not on the ubiquitous posters in the Police station.
When the analyst at the opening of this article saw the selection of the football coach at the commencement of a game, he correctly predicted the tempo of the match. Can we also here in Ogun hope that Frank Mba’s coming as the CP would reenact his fame as a redoubtable crime fighter?
Ojewale is a journalist and writer in Ota, Ogun State.