Viewing Nigeria through a web of broken links

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

Nigerians own some of the best websites on the internet. Nigeria also boasts some of the world’s best intellectuals and professionals who quietly make the world run smoothly.  Many of them actually obtained their education in Nigeria at a time when Nigerian institutions were the envy of the world.  My point? Nigeria is a nation of greatly talented people; however you couldn’t tell this from viewing the websites owned by Nigerian governments and institutions. They seem to exist only for the purpose of loudly advertising Nigeria’s dysfunction and mediocrity.

It is interesting that Nigerians can spend umpteen hours making their personal websites the paragon of excellence but are content to let corporate sites under their watch grow weeds. A random sampling of the websites of Nigerian governmental institutions exposes them as a jumble of mediocrity, misinformation, self-serving aggrandizement served up on a spaghetti bowl of broken links. It is as if these websites were put up simply because it seems the fashionable thing to do. Once they are established, usually with loud fanfare, they are allowed to simply decay into digital earth.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to unearth evidence about what I am talking about. Take Nigeria’s official website for example: It is a disgraceful riot of broken links and outdated and in many instances false information. It is slow, buggy and awkward to navigate. Some of the links simply take you nowhere. Click on any link in there and you are confronted with either a broken link or a message indicating that “this page will soon be available.” The government of Nigeria should consider taking down the site until work and appropriate technical tests have been concluded.  It would be interesting to know how much has been spent on this website so far and what the process was to determine its design and content.  Whoever is responsible for developing this website should be held accountable.

Nothing expresses this dysfunction in more visual detail than the websites of Nigerian institutions that are devoted to education or the literary arts. It is particularly heartbreaking to click on Nigeria’s “Ministry of Education” tab and watch it announce optimistically, “this page will soon be available.” It is a disheartening visual of Nigeria’s lack off seriousness. How is it possible that Nigeria’s Ministry of Education is represented by a broken link? And folks wonder why our educational system is broken. In more respectable societies, the person in charge of this disgrace of a website would be promptly fired. Aso Rock is probably running the website in a “cybercafé” that also doubles as an amala and ewedu bukateria. I would not be shocked to find out that hundreds of millions of dollars were “spent” on this national e-disgrace.  If I sound harsh, it is on purpose. We ought to start shaming our leaders into doing the right thing. I know, I know, they don’t give a damn, but I will keep trying.

Edo State’s site should be shut down until it is usable. It is as if a gaggle of enthusiastic and clueless motor park touts collaborated on its design and implementation. Click on the Ministry of Education and see what happens. Hint: Nothing. There is absolutely no information there worth using; one might as well be reading the self-congratulatory slop of Nigerian obituary announcements.

Similarly, The Association of Nigerian Authors spends most of its dying days squabbling over inanities like who got invited to drink peppersoup and chomp on bushmeat in Aso Rock. That dysfunctional organization founded on a beautiful dream but floundering from the excessive sloth of her current warders, has, well, had a website. Google it, click on it and you realize that it no longer exists perhaps because the owners allowed its domain name to expire.

The most disappointing, is the official website of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). It is to put it mildly, a near incoherent offering of stale documents, dated information and broken web links. ASUU should please take a brief break from walking out on students (for yet another pay increase) and bring down the website immediately. It sends a very bad signal to the world about the state of our educational system.

We live in a new dispensation and Nigerian institutions are to be applauded for taking advantage of the Internet to showcase content about our country. Our leaders must however refrain from simply developing websites for the sake of it. People actually want to use these sites for what they are advertised. Increasingly, people, states and institutions are being judged by the state of their websites. Nigeria should not be on the Internet until she is ready for prime time.  I do applaud President Goodluck Jonathan for maintaining a robust presence on Facebook and for engaging a sizable slice of Nigeria’s Facebook generation. It is the right thing to do even though the editorial standards of his postings are questionable. Nigeria boasts a wealth of literary talent and President Jonathan can easily put together a top notch editorial team to manage the country’s digital presence.