It has been said many times that if the angels come down from heaven, they would be crooked by the time they landed in Nigeria. We have our share of heroes but the environment does not encourage men and women of integrity and substance. Our leaders were born in the system that encourage avarice and punish honesty. In case we forget, there are men and women that called the rut we find ourselves by the name.

Obiageli Ezekwesili is a good example of heroes. Not for what she has got into recently asking the Government to explain oil windfall of past years but for calling the state governors their real names during Obasanjo Administration for diverting state and local government funds into their private accounts. It seems like a long forgotten time now but that was when the governors were threatening lawsuits against her and demanding her resignation.

When Nasir El-Rufai came out exposing those senators that demanded bribes from him before confirmation, he was forced to apologize and in return, they also exposed him for paying foreign money (hard currency) to his Assistants, as expatriates. Mantu, that demanded bribe to facilitate his confirmation as minister, got report about Wabara demand from poor Education minister, Professor Osuji. The Professor decided to play the game in town and got burnt.

What became of Haruna Yerima that was suspended from the house for calling them bribe seekers? They had to deal with him severely just as they dealt with notorious Ezeribe. A sinner cannot even repent in Nigeria and turn around without being blackmailed like a crab trying to flee from the barrel. It must be pulled down. By the way, senators also have the power to pardon one of their own for stealing our money. Late senator Oyi Okadigbo and two speakers, Olubunmi Etteh and Salisiu Buhari were allowed to go scot free.

The most promising of all was Nuhu Ribadu. We cannot say we were not warned that he would turn out to be a fake. We loved him to death and his style of making examples out of big time criminal like Chief of Police Tafa Balogun. He even swore to catch Tinubu, the fraudster of 'international proportion'. He went after the son of Babagida. When he was accused of going after Obasanjo enemies, he replied that he too used OBJ to go after his friends.

How sad? Tinubu dangled Presidency in his face and he melted like suya fat!

African countries still lag behind the rest of the world because they have no common interest that can propel Africa beyond its idiocracies. Integrity of purpose has built nations as long as they are true to their goals and objectives. Those interests might have been positive or negative to outside interest but to succeed, outside influence can only derail purpose that is not in its interest. Africa has produced its share of great men willing to sacrifice it all including lives.

We usually think about great men like Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Jomo Kenyatta, Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe, Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere and others that fell along the way before they could reached their Promised Land. These men are great freedom fighters that became pragmatic, compromised or betrayed by their own in collusion with the oppressors. This is not about blaming colonialism; it is about our failure to deliver after 40 years.

Whatever it took was used to build other nations into great countries and of course apologies usually come later. None of them were built by foreign powers. Not even the reconstruction of Europe by Americans without the determination of the people ready to place their own interest first and before Americans when they disagreed. Each and every one of these great countries sought foreign interest only if it conformed to theirs and played hypocrisy when it does not.

Just like the World Cocoa Crisis Nkrumah championed. Students of history know that Africa has not recovered from that betrayal of the solidarity Nkrumah sought. Nigeria is a case in point of abundant great men and women of integrity whose ideas and hard work were displaced based on expediency. Our purpose was clear and loud on political freedom like most Africa countries and we went for it with dedication. Unfortunately, others' economic interest diluted ours.

When integrity at home and hypocrisy outside; is replaced by hypocrisy at home and 'integrity' outside; each of the African countries fails. It is easy to blame the soldiers because nobody wants to die. But that is half of the problem. Most countries deserve the government they get. We can blame the civil war but that is not our entire problem. What we have failed to blame are this writer, you and others. We nurtured, encouraged and aggrandized mediocrity.

Nigeria saw a glimpse of hope in 1999 in the first couple of years of Obasanjo but that hope disappeared and he became a disappointment. We complained that Abacha was to hash, Buhari/Idiagbo War Against Indiscipline did not respect African respect for elders but Obasanjo Government was half democratic and half military while hoping for better outcomes. It was our best shot towards building a nation of integrity inside and whatever, even foreign hypocrisy.

Along the way we missed our bearing. While Obasanjo was bragging around the world that he was the military that midwife democratic government, he gained statesman status. His head became swollen, forgot he was part of a corrupt military. But he criticized every government after him, rightly. He forgot to take something when he was the military President. So Abacha jailed him, he was broke, haggard and almost lost his life but saved by the bell. What for?

So OBJ was a saint as a poor President? He came back with a vengeance and looted us blind. Now he has money and power and nobody can kick him around anymore. Like Babagida, he knows Nigeria. If this is the character we prefer, we will be waiting for God for a long time.

There are many more even this writer cannot remember in our villages and towns. In their initial glories we did not bestow the highest honors on them to encourage our coming generation that: this was how you behave in a nation of integrity. All the highest honors bestowed went to Vagabonds In Power that has nothing but corruption to show for their honors. Indeed, some of the rogues predicted the fall of their catchers and it came to pass.

While we slept on these, corruption grew wings and crooks rise up with a vengeance.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Farouk Martins Aresa