King Jaja of Opobo
This is the biography of the great king and Nigerian Hero that King Jaja Hall of UNILAG was named after
|Reign||25 December 1870–September 1887|
|Coronation||25 December 1870|
|Full name||Jubo Jubogha|
Birth and Slave Trade
King Jaja was a merchant prince and the founder of Opobo city-state in an area that is now the Rivers state of Nigeria. Born in 1821, in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, in Igboland as Mbanaso Okwaraozurumba. He was the third son of his parents, the Okwaraozurumba, he was sold at about the age of twelve as a slave in Bonny. Jubo Jubogha later took the name “Jaja” for his dealings with the British.
Jaja proved his aptitude for business at an early age, earning his way out of slavery; he was enculturated according to Ijaw (Ibani) rituals and eventually established himself as head of the Anna Pepple House. Under Jaja’s leadership, Anna Pepple soon absorbed a number of Bonny’s other trade houses until an ongoing dispute with the Manilla Pepple House led by Oko Jumbo forced Jaja to break away as Opobo city-state in 1869.
For 18 years, Jaja ruled the independent Opobo city-state with firmness and remarkable authority. The Opobo city-state dominated the palm oil trade and since the British were blocked from carrying out direct business with the hinter land, the Opobo city-state excersise monopoly over the business. With this, the British people were made to pay taxes and trade duties as and when due to the King Jaja. It seemed like a balanced relationship was enjoyed between the British and King Jaja. But all of these was short-lived as trouble soon ensued between the two seemingly peaceful partnership. Opobo was soon home to fourteen of what were formerly Bonny’s eighteen trade houses. Jaja also moved to block the access of British merchants to the interior, giving him an effective monopoly; at times, Opobo even shipped palm oil directly to Liverpool, independent of British middlemen.
The Fall of Jaja
In the in the 1880s, the British imperialism began to assert itself fully. As the time went on, British officials were becoming more defiant to the indigenous authorities and British traders began direct trading with the hinterland palm oil producers. In 1884 during the Berlin Conference, the European powers declared Opobo as British territory, and the British soon moved to claim it. As expected, Jaja believing in his own authority, refused to stop taxing the British traders. This was the beginning of trouble for him. Under the guise of peace talks, Henry Hamilton Johnston, a British vice consul, invited Jaja to negotiations in 1887. Although Jaja turned down the invitation because he was suspicious of the motive, he was assured a safe return back home by Johnston and so he eventually honoured the invitation.
When Jaja arrived, the British arrested him and tried him in Accra in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) then took him to London for some time, where he met Queen Victoria and was her guest in Buckingham Palace. After some other turbulent history, he was exiled to Saint Vincent in the West Indies. Plans were also made for him to be relocated to Barbados.
In 1891, Jaja was granted permission to return to Opobo, but died en route, allegedly poisoned with a cup of tea.
The Death of King Jaja
According to several reports, King Jaja while in exile, carried himself in his kingly dignity. He wrote several appeals to Britain to allow him return home back to his throne and his people. After several declined appeals, he was finally allowed to return in 1891. Following his exile and death, the power of the Opobo state rapidly declined.
You can also go on to read his death annoucement published by New York Times in 1891
“Source – Naija.ng, Wikipedia”.