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Demographics: The 800-pound gorilla in the room

-The Virgin Islands General Elections, February 25, 2019
January 26th, 2019 | Tags: Dickson Igwe elections 2019 Virgin Islands voting
Dickson C. Igwe. Photo: VINO/File
By Dickson C. Igwe

The Virgin Islands population mix, demographic, and migration patterns, and how these are used in Julius Caesar’s campaign, is the great unmentionable in the room.

OK. Virgin Islands General Election seasons are a volatile, tumultuous, and exciting time for journalists, commentators and pundits. And one strategy in politics is termed: DIVIDE AND RULE.  Divide and rule works. Today, divide and rule is a very subtle game of political chess that uses demographics to leverage a general election campaign to the advantage of one or the other political party.

OK. This Wannabe met a critical player in Virgin Islands politics last Tuesday morning as he ambled about town. This man is a super campaigner with one of the big two parties. He stated that the demographics favoured his party. He was certain that was their trump card. In response, this ‘’Idealist’’ stated that he would never vote based on his own personal demographic, or tribe.

Now, this voter is a BVI Citizen and UK born. He is 50% Kittitian, Nevisian, Trinidadian, - Down Islands- and 50% Nigerian.

Based on that demographic the man- actually a friend despite vast political differences- stated that he expected Dickson Igwe to vote in a specific manner that would benefit his party.

This Old Boy responded that he always voted on policy and vision: and never tribal instinct. He further told the ‘’political thug’’ that he will be voting on what party offers the best future for his children and grandchildren: ‘’period.’’ 

As yours truly ambled away from a tense exchange the ‘’political activist,’’ smiled in a roguish manner: ear to ear. He blinked at lightning speed, and mischievously, and further asserted: ‘’Igwe! You too stupid, you na know that you one a we?’’ Whatever that meant!

Yes! Demographic politics is potent politics. Why? Because demographic politics is tribal politics; it is politics based on them versus us: tribal division.

In colonial times, the British were expert at divide and rule. The British kept various ethnic, religious, and racial groups, at each other’s throats, as a potent way to manage ‘’troublesome savages.’’

Today, Nigeria, - an ex British Colony- has inherited that ‘’British Colonial Strategy’’ with it tumultuous and bloody politics.

Nigeria is the poster boy of demographic politics, with each tribe and population group voting in a uniformed manner, based on bloodline and tribal loyalties. 

Trump’s Pitchfork Revolution and Brexit are further examples of the politics of demographics.

Trump – a rabid opportunist- smelled a political rat. Trump observed that white working class men were very unhappy with their economic lot brought about by globalized economics, and the wealth and social inequalities that globalization has driven.

Trump decided that the best strategy would be to put the fear of ‘’Brown People’’ into the hearts and minds of these white folk. Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric worked dramatically.

Trump was elected President on a minority vote:” the angry white vote.’’ Today the USA is the most divided developed country in the western hemisphere.

But Trump will be a One Term President based on the hatred he has cooked up. Why?  Because of cause and effect: America’s brown people, women, and white liberals are more in number than the ‘’angry white working men’’ used by a billionaire salesman to get into the White House. 

On election day, the ‘’Democratic Party Base’’ -larger than the white Republican base that is shrinking owing to the higher fertility rates of Latinas- is equally angry.

It will put pay to Trump’s politics of hate with the USA going moving hard left in spite of a Conservative Supreme Court.

In the UK, Brexit was a similar story- albeit unintended at first, when the 2016 Referendum to get out of Europe was won by 52% of the UK’s population.

However, a closer look at Brexit revealed major demographic divisions. White working-class men were overwhelmingly Brexiters. Minorities preferred Europe as a protection against UK racism. There were regional differentials in the 2016 vote. Northern working-class towns and northern and Midwestern city areas voted Brexit. Scotland and Wales voted to remain. London and specific regions in the Southeast voted Remain. And so on and so forth.

The paradox of Brexit is that the white working class voters who voted to get out of Europe have the most to lose as economic numbers clearly show today. Demographic politics has not been good for Britain. Today that demographic differential has created two parallel societies. Brexit may indeed tear the UK apart.

In the British Virgin Islands, demographic politics is the 800lb Gorilla in the room. in the upcoming February General Elections, politicians who are leveraging demographics as a strategy may believe they are playing a winning hand, just like that ‘’party thug’’ stated, when he met this ‘’Johnnie Walker’’ in Road Town. And playing one tribe against the other may appear to be a winning hand.

However, as another politician stated: divide and rule is a losing strategy for the Virgin Islands community as a whole. It will further divide the community.

A man or woman may become Premier by dividing up the Virgin Islands community into tribes, ethnicities, and races. In the long run, that type of politics will always backfire. If you do not believe that: take a look north and see what is happening in the UK and US.

Vote vision and policy, not tribe!

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3 Responses to “Demographics: The 800-pound gorilla in the room”

  • Tafari Zharr (26/01/2019, 10:46) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    Brilliant Piece!
  • E. Leonard (26/01/2019, 21:03) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    National growth and development generally depends among other things on population growth/immigration. Truth be told, immigration may result in social, political, cultural and economical changes and impact. The impacts of immigration occur sooner and more rapidly in smaller countries than in larger countries. Invariably, though it is vital for growth and development, the impact of immigration May cause friction between locals and immigrants; often, locals may see themselves as losing ground, influence, ownership, identity......etc. Demograhic politics is present in both large and small countries, eg, US, UK (Brexit), BVI, other regional countries, USVI, Japan........etc. Japan is facing a crisis; it is a relatively closed society. As noted earlier, population growth is vital for national growth and development. Well, Japan limits immigration, it has a lower birth rate than perhaps many of its competitors(?), and its population is aging. These factors are putting stress and strain on the Japanese economy.

    Moreover, along with tribal politics, political patronage and dependency, demograhic politics is part of the political landscape in the BVI. The BVI economy was transformed from a subsistence agricultural economy to a service-based economy, ie, tourism (mid 60s) and financial services (mid 80s). The new economy created new job classifications, more jobs, new skill sets.....etc; there was a skill a shortage among the BVI small population. Consequently, labour had to be imported and labour is still being imported to meet its needs. Immigration, coupled with the demand for labour has changed the ratio between indigenous population and expats; the estimated ratio is either 40:60, 30:70, or 55:45......etc. Whatever the ratio, the number of expat residents(not necessarily eligible voters) exceed locals. Like our neighboring USVI, going forward this will be a reality. It is estimated that there is 100+ different nationalities that currently call the BVI home. Going forward, the reality is that many candidates competing in local elections would have a grandparent(s) who was born outside the territory. Typically, over a few generations, the offspring of immigrants, though they may have citizenship rights in other countries, embraced the country in which they were born.

    Nevertheless, though it may sound like a btoken CD, the hurricanes of Sep 2017 (Irma and Maria) decimated the BVI to the tune of $3.6B in facility damages with damages including infrastructure, institutions, housing, public safety facilities, government facilities, structures, recreational facilities, tourist facilities.....etc. The hurricanes also impacted the economy, jobs, gross domestic product (GDP), environment, quality of life issues, standard of living and quality of life, and personal lives and circumstances. Thus, it is not a stretch to say that the territory is at a crossroad and that this election is critical to electing a government to set the compass and chart a sustainable course well into the 21st Century. As such, the focus of this election should be on improving the health, safety and well-being of residents, building a strong, sustainable economy,; and advancing progressively the country........etc. Voter registration period is over; every registered voter needs to cast his/her vote; every vote matters and can make a diffrence.
  • Outsider (31/01/2019, 07:40) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I gave up reading Mr. Igwe’s pieces a few years ago. Sorry Mr. Igwe. They are just too vague and lack adequate specificity for me. I clicked on this one because I thought it might say something of interest, because of the headline. I was wrong. It was in the same vein as the others. Some lines about places like the UK, Nigeria and the U.S.. After reading it, I was none the wiser on what demographic divisions there might be in this tiny territory, relevant to how people vote here. It seems something was implied along the lines that there are such divisions...but no colour provided whatsoever on what they are. My suggestion Mr. Igwe is in your next piece, don’t mention any other country. Explain your topic by reference to this one. Typically comparisons between a tiny territory of 30,000 people and vast federations and countries of tends or hundreds of millions are pretty vacuous. Have a go! Best wishes.


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