Fruitless search for National Theatre’s website By Geoff Iyatse

INTERNET PUNCH 27 AUGUST 2015

Google seems to have an answer for every question. But its search engine could not supply the website of the National Arts Theatre on Wednesday.

Digital tools have become an essential part of tourism, with fun lovers visiting destinations even before they commence their journeys.

But the National Arts Theatre, which was a major Lagos tourist site in its heyday, does not seem to have a ‘home’ on the digital space even though it does not cost much to set up one.

The only thing one could find on Wednesday was a Facebook page linked to it.

This may have compounded the challenges the national monument is facing.

Wikipedia, however, may have been doing what the management has failed to do: announcing the tourist potential of the centre to the international market.

Its history and facilities, even though some may not be in a good shape, are captured by the listing site.

“The National Arts Theatre was built during the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo. Its exterior is shaped like a military hat. It has a 5,000-seater main hall with a collapsible stage, and two 700-800 capacity cinema halls. All of these are equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation of eight languages, among others.

“It was designed and constructed by Bulgarian construction companies and resembles the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria. Completed in 1968, the National Arts Theatre situated in Lagos is bigger than that of Bulgaria,” claimed Wikipedia.

The site also narrates some of the recent controversies that trailed the edifice, saying many Nigerian playwrights protested the proposed privatisation of the asset to a standstill.

On Facebook, several pages attempt to tell the story of the centre in their own ways. One narrative is taking readers through major events hosted by the place, which it described as a “master piece.”

But a site of its own – operated by its management – that should have aggregated diverse views and given the world a clear picture about its status is not available.

This again shows that many institutions and business/agency managers in Nigeria have yet to realised the importance of the digital revolution that has come to stay.

In contrast, the Bulgarian centre, which the National Arts Centre located in Iganmu, Surulere, was modelled after, beams with activities online.

Visitors to its website could explore its offerings from four different languages. It has a bubbling digital media where its officials interact with clients from different parts of the world.

But while such culture administrators are so lagging behind, many Nigerian politicians can hardly do without social media again, in presenting the cases to the public.

For instance, the ongoing, Akwa Ibom State governorship election tribunal hearing may have set a new template for instant digital news reporting.

The legal battle is between the All Progressives Congress candidate, Umana Umana, and Gov. Udom Emmanuel, who won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

With Twitter, Facebook and several other digital platforms, those who are interested in the court procedure could monitor live the process from any part of the world as it unfolds in Abuja.

Umana’s team seemed to have resolved to capture the entire excise in a permanent form – digital space.

On Wednesday morning when the tribunal resumed, Umana and his team went to Facebook, Twitter and their campaign portal, announcing their expectations for the day and the format they expected the procedure to take.

“Tribunal to resume today while the petitioners’ forensic experts are to testify,” reported several Twitterhandles.

They followed up with second-by-second reports on legal documents that were tendered before the tribunal and remarks by the presiding judge.

In addition to newspapers, TV and radio stations as well as hundreds of social media platforms that have been reporting the matter, the team has also created a new Twitter handle – @TrackAkwaIbom – which is dedicated to live reporting of the hearing.

The ex-SSG’s personal Twitter handle and campaign digital platforms also give live updates.

Ahead of Wednesday’s sitting, Umana urged his supporters to prepare for a rerun of the election.

“We have come this far as the first bold and honest step in Akwa Ibom project for openness and accountability as we seek justice. The justice is: cancellation and election rerun so that the peoples’ voice will be heard regardless of what the outcome will be.

“Last week ended on a high note for us. The evidence presented in the court made the most ardent supporter of Godswill Akpabio cringe.

“The videos sent a chill to viewers as they watched, in horror, the arrogance and impunity that denied Akwa Ibom the right to vote,” he tweeted.

PUNCH