King Jaja of Opobo

King Jaja of Opobo

(1821-1891)

He was born in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo in Igboland, Nigeria. He was sold as a slave to a Bonny trader from Rivers state at the age of 12. He was called Jubo Jobogha by his first slave master. He was later sold to a man called Chief Alali, the head of the Opubo Anne Pepple Royal house. He was nicknamed “Jaja” by the British.

He was later sold to a man called Chief Alali, the head of the Opubo Anne Pepple Royal house. He was nicknamed “Jaja” by the British. The royal house was a socio-political institution at the foundation of the city-state.

He had a knack for business from an early age and he was able to earn his way out of slavery. He worked his way up and was able to establish himself as the head of the Anne Pepple Royal house. In Bonny at that time, it was possible for a slave to work his way up and become head of state.

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After slavery was abolished in 1807, Palm oil trade became the main source of income for Bonny. The local palm oil producers were forbidden to trade with the British so this had to be done through the royal houses. The British were afraid to leave the coast for fear of Malaria. Jaja began to take over other royal houses and

Jaja began to take over other royal houses and he increased the production of palm oil. He became well known among the Europeans and he went on to establish a new settlement called Opobo after the break up of his faction. This was due to a power struggle between the royal houses. Opobo was independent of Bonny.

Jaja began to gain more wealth and respect, he even began shipping palm oil directly to England. Opobo was located in a strategic spot and Jaja began the control trade dealings in the whole Niger-Delta region. Royal houses from Bonny started moving to Opobo.

Jaja made sure British traders were taxed and this, of course, did not favor the British. He ordered the cessation of trade if the taxes were not paid. He was warned by the British but refused to give in. IN Berlin 1884, unknown to Jaja, Opobo was declared a British territory by the other European powers. In 1887 British traders invited Jaja for negotiations concerning trade taxes, he was arrested and taken to Ghana for trial. He was then taken to London to meet with Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace.

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He was exiled by the British to the West Indes and was not allowed to return to Opobo until 1891. He was poisoned with a cup of tea while on the journey back to Opobo and he died before he got there. Jaja insisted on African Independence throughout his life and by resisting, he exposed British Imperialism to other Africans.

He is one of the early victims of the British colonialism and invasion in West Africa. Jaja’s exile and death made it easier for the British to colonize the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.

 

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