Search Submit. The founder and king of a prosperous city, he is popularly known as Jaja Opogo, a name given to him by the British which later became his household name. He is regarded as a hero who left a mark of great significance in the history of Nigeria and West Africa. Jaja worked very hard for his master and was very humble until he was sold again to Chief Alali who was the ruler of the Opubo Anne Pepple Royal House. In those days, the Bonny Empire was a flourishing kingdom in ancient Nigeria that gained its wealth through trade and business in the slave trade.
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Born in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, Imo state in the year , his actual birth name is unknown, and also the identity of his true parents. From the 15th to the 18th century, Opobo, like the other city-states, gained its wealth from the profits of the slave trade. This thriving business was enough to make one rich as well as give him popularity.
However, the abolition of the Slave Trade in was supplanted by the trade in palm oil. Palm oil, in itself, was so vibrant that the region was named the Oil Rivers area. Astute in business and politics, Jaja became the head of the Anna Pepple House, extending its activities and influence by absorbing other houses, increasing operations in the hinterland and augmenting the number of European contacts.
He established a new settlement, which he named Opobo in where he became King Jaja of Opobo. This new status saw him declare himself independent of Bonny. Part of this success is attributed to the fact that Jaja made moves 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. Apart from the fact that he was a wealthy merchant and a very diplomatic man, he was also a man of honour and power.
This is exemplified when he aided the Queen of England in a battle in the Gold Coast The Ashanti war and was awarded a sword of honour from Queen Victoria in As time went on, the Oil trade business in Opobo land began to expand and the ambitions of the Europeans to dominate this market grew, thus creating a conflict between Jaja and British top sales and business tycoons.
One of who was John Holt of Liverpool. He raided about seven of their villages, captured many, and executed about people for engaging in direct trade with the Europeans.
Even when the British came up with funny tricks and laws to outrun Jaja in the quest of control of the Oil region, like a game of chess he always checkmated them and this angered the British the more. At the Berlin Conference, however, the other European powers designated Opobo as British territory, and the British soon moved to claim it.
When Jaja refused to cease taxing British traders, Henry Hamilton Johnston, a British vice-consul, invited Jaja to negotiations in He assured Jaja that nothing will happen to him.
When he went on board, he was given two bad choices by Johnson. One was that if he would not allow the Europeans access, he could go back and face immediate bombardment from the British navy, and the other that he goes into exile. Jaja being a man of strong values and principles choose not to back down, 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.
No one knew what transpired between him and the Queen but after some time, he was finally deported to the West Indies. While in exile in the Caribbean, his presence was alleged to be the cause of immense civil unrest among the people of Barbados. Jaja eventually won his liberty after years of fighting against his wrongful abduction, and it was agreed by the Parliament that he could be repatriated to his Kingdom State of Opobo. Jaja now well advanced in age longed to see his beloved Opobo land again.
Now, this is the twist. The people of the Barbados, mostly of people of African Nigeria descent had heard rumors that an African King was being captured and is now on his way to the Island. They all rallied themselves together to give him a befitting reception.
It was quite an interesting episode of his life in Barbados. The people of the Island felt insulted about how an African King had been subjected to such ridicule and shame.
The next day, which was a Sunday, the people of the Island held their church service on the water side, right by the ship. Jaja was seen looking through as the service goes on. Before the service was over, he came out and there was a loud cry amongst the women, welcoming him; a King from their ancestral mother land.
The crowd went hysterically. The British feared that they may plan an escape plan for him, got their bags and sailed back to St. He was moved around from one place to the around the West Indies so that hnis family lineage can be traced in St. Vincent Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It was said even at a time that he got married and had children. Vincent is a common slang for someone who is arrogant and carries himself or herself with an air of pride and dignity.
Coined after the way King Jaja himself held his head up high while he was on the island. In , Jaja was granted permission to return to Opobo but died en route, allegedly poisoned with a cup of tea in June. His body was shipped instead to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where he was buried. Following his exile and death, the power of the Opobo state rapidly declined, the land was plagued with slave raids, riots and the British exploited the land for his natural resources.
After many years of clamour and protest his body was properly exhumed and sent back to his beloved Opobo Kingdom where he was laid to rest. To enable commenting and other interactive features, please switch to the more advanced.
Everything you need to live well. King Jaja Opobo statue. Photo: Wikipedia.
Jaja of Opobo: The Slave Boy Who Became King
Jaja whose real name was Mbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa was also a savvy political and military strategist, brought to the Bonny Kingdom as a slave, who was perhaps the most troublesome thorn in the flesh of 19th-century British imperial ambition in southern Nigeria. At birth he was given a native Igbo name Mbanaso Okwaraozurumba and was the third son of his parents, the Okwaraozurumba. According to different oral sources, Jaja was sold into slavery in the Niger Delta under circumstances which are far from clear. One version of the oral traditions says that he was sold because, as a baby, he cut the upper teeth first, an abominable phenomenon in traditional Igbo society. Regardless, he was bought by Chief Iganipughuma Allison of Bonny, by far the most powerful city-state on the Atlantic coast of Southeastern Nigeria before the rise of Opobo.
Aspects of British Gunboat Diplomacy – Jaja King of Opobo
Simultaneously, these states coped with an overwhelming buildup of domestic slaves, some of whom rose to unprecedented higher political and economic positions. One particular individual, King Jaja of Opobo, came to the fore as an extreme example of how slaves became more capable of taking advantage of the changing political, religious, and economic landscape of the Eastern Niger Delta during this period. Born Mbanaso Ozurumba in the Igboland village of Umuduruoha in , Jaja, as he would become known to his European trading partners, traversed the domestic slave systems of Southeastern Nigeria and arrived in the Delta trading state of Bonny in From on, Jaja monopolized the palm oil trade in the region to become the most influential trader from his new position as king of the island community, which he would name Opobo. Political pressure forced the British to return Jaja to Opobo.