THE Christopher Columbus statue in Port of Spain should be replaced with a memorial to the Emancipation struggle, historian Dr Claudius Fergus of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, argued Thursday. He was addressing a ceremony to unveil a plaque to mark the visit of a Nigerian state governor to Yoruba Village Square, opposite Besson Street Police Station, Port of Spain.
He lamented that quite near the site of Thursday’s event was a monument to Columbus, whom he described as “one of the most vicious” figures from history. Yet in the whole of TT there exists no monument to anyone who participated in the struggle for Emancipation from slavery in the Caribbean.
“This is a good site,” Fergus said, to set up an Emancipation monument.
To erect such a monument, Fergus called for collaboration from the day’s guest of honour, Governor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
The UWI History Department former head quipped, “The wind blows this way (west to east) to blow away the evil of the (Columbus) statue and maybe the statue itself.”
Fergus said Yoruba culture had been intertwined with the Haitian Revolution, which in turn had not only ended slavery in Haiti but had also played a key role in forcing Britain to abolish the slave trade in the whole Caribbean.
Aregbesola said he had come to support and identify with the Emancipation celebrations.
“It is beyond an honour,” he said. “I am privileged to be here. My feeling is indescribable.”
While much of the ceremony was conducted under Orisha rites, he said he was a Muslim, but when he pondered the English translation of the Yoruba-language prayers, he saw them to be similar to those of Islam and Christianity.
“The great entity that we call God is the god of all.”
Baba Olatunji Somorin, a Nigerian living in Trinidad who represents the Yoruba community, hailed the governor for having introduced to his state a special day for people who are not Christian or Muslim but follow tradition African faiths. Somorin spoke at length in Yoruba, then repeated it all in English.