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The Story Of “Jaja Of Opobo”.

 

This great man was born in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, Imo state, in the year 1821. His actual birth name is unknown, and the identity of his true parents is also unknown. The Igbo land in Nigeria in the 1800s was in chaos, many Europeans invaded the land for slaves in exchange for firearms, tobacco and bullets. Because of this, many blacks went into the slave trading business, they will kidnap their fellow blacks and sell them to the whites for money.

After Jaja was kidnapped as a young boy, he was taken to Bonny island, Rivers State, where his first master named him Jubo Jubogha. His first master later sold him to Chief Alali, the head of Opobu Manila Group of houses. It was here that the British people that could not pronounce his name started calling him “Jaja”.

From the 15th to the 18th century, Opobo was a kingdom that gained massive wealth from the profits of slave trade. The abolition of slave trade in 1807, gave way to palm oil business, this business thrived in the absence of slave trade.

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Jaja became the head of Anna Pepple House, and gradually, he began to absorb other houses. The term “house” refers to small settlements of people with a leader, back them in Bonny island.

Later on, there was a power struggle between the rival factions of different houses in Bonny, this lead to the breakaway of Jaja and his people. He established a new settlement that he named Opobo in 1869. This was how he became King Jaja of Opobo. He declared his new kingdom as an independent place from Bonny.

King Jaja did everything within his power to monopolize the trade of palm oil to himself, he killed over 100 people that tried to trade directly with the Europeans.

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After the Berlin Conference where the Europeans shared Africa, the British people became the owners of Nigeria, but when they tried to claim Opobo land, King Jaja gave them a resistance. Henry Hamilton Johnston, who was the British vice-consul, invited King Jaja for a negotiation in the year 1887.

King Jaja grew richer with his palm oil business, he was even shipping oil to Liverpool. Apart from the fact that he was a wealthy merchant and a very diplomatic man, he was also a man of honour and power. There a time when he supported the Queen of England in a battle that happened in the Gold Coast (the Ashanti war), and he was awarded with the sword of honour from Queen Victoria in the year 1871.

They gave him two choices, Either he goes to exile, or he goes back to his people and face bombardment from the British army. He chose not to come down from the ship, to go on exile, this way, his people would be safe.

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The British government arrested him and tied him in Accra, Gold Coast (which is now Ghana), they took him with them to London for some time, where he met Queen Victoria as her guest in the Buckingham Palace.

King Jaja palace, new year celebration recently..

 

Nobody knows what happened in that meeting, but he was deported to the West Indies. After many years of protests against the British about his unlawful exile. Jaja eventually gained freedom, but he died of poisoning before he could return home. After many more years of protests, his body was exhumed and taken to his home where he’s buried till date.

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