The Online Watchdog
Certain individuals and institutions take up the responsibility of keeping an eye on the activities of the people, the government and corporations, to ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities and not going against set down rules.
For example, Ken Saro-Wiwa, an activist who fought for the Ogoni people by criticizing the destruction of the environment by oil exploration industries, which made life difficult for the inhabitants of Ogoni and paralyzed the businesses of farmers and fishermen due to oil spillage.
Also, Dele Giwa who until his death was a journalist and co-founder of the Newswatch magazine. He took it upon himself to write about the corruption of the Nigerian government.
Let’s also consider the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who through his music brought to the consciousness of Nigerians some ills in almost every major aspect of the society like religion, politics, etc.
There are numerous examples of people who spoke up or who are speaking up just as these men mentioned above, but for simplicity, let’s settle for these three.
What is the peculiarity and similarity of these men? Simple, they monitored and publicized the undesirable behavior and activities of individuals, corporations, and government. They are the watchdogs of society.
They stood as the middlemen between the big dogs of the society and the poor masses, waking up the consciousness of the people to corrupt practices while keeping the big dogs on their toes when they did wrong.
They spurred up uproars and reactions from the people, which led to tongues lashing and protests that in some rare occasions led to desired positive changes.
The tools these watchdogs used differ. Ken Saro-Wiwa leveraged the power of books and TV drama; Dele Giwa on the other hand, utilized the potent influence of newspaper, while Fela used music, which he referred to as the weapon of the people to carry out his watchdog duties.
These powerful media — books, mass media, and music hold great power in carrying out watchdog duties even now, but there is a new medium now employed for carrying out the watchdog activities.
This new medium is social media, especially Twitter. Twitter has changed the dynamics of “watchdogging” and brought about the emergence of new watchdogs called online watchdogs.
With a large number of smartphone users, how fast news and information go viral across the world, coupled with the large percentage of people online, never has it been this easier exposing criminal and corrupt activities of individuals, governments, and corporations.
An average Twitter user consciously and unconsciously has an inbuilt watchdog instinct, and massive online protests now happen frequently with positive results sometimes.
An example of an emerged online watchdog in Nigeria is Segun Awosanya aka Sega Link (@segalink). He has done tremendously well as a watchdog who fights against the Nigerian police brutality, extortion, wrongful detention, and many other dysfunctions in the institution. His watchdog activities have achieved some level of success and gathered massive supports and followership.
On several occasions, Nigerians have displayed their watchdog traits by fighting against rape, unfavourable government laws, boko-haram terrorism, etc. online, through retweets, hashtags, comments, signing of petitions and so on.
In this new social media age, the weight of the responsibility of watchdogs shouldered by journalists and activists have been lightened and shared amongst most social media users who care to speak up.
The new generation of watchdogs is born; they are the online watchdogs.
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