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KING JAJA OF OPOBO INTRODUCTION

1. From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, Bonny, like the other city-states, gained its wealth from the profits of the slave trade. Here, an individual could attain prestige and power through success in business and, as in the case of Jaja, a slave could work his way up to head of state. In the nineteenth century, after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the trade in slaves was supplanted by the trade in palm oil, which was so vibrant that the region was named the Oil Rivers area. The Houses in Bonny and other city-states controlled both the internal and external palm oil trade because the producers in the hinterland were forbidden to trade directly with the Europeans on the coast. 2. These events led Jaja to become a formidable player in Palm oil trade, his steady rise to power and subsequent downfall. King Jaja was born in Igboland and sold as a slave to a Bonny trader at the age of twelve, he was named Jubo Jubogha by his first master. He was later sold to Chief Alali, the head of the Opubo Annie Pepple Royal House. This gifted and enterprising individual named Jaja by the British eventually became one of the most powerful men in the eastern Niger Delta.

AIM 3. The aim of this brief is to acquaint you with the life history of JaJa of

Opobo.

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SCOPE 4. The brief will cover the followings; a. b. c. d. e. Opobo City. Early Life. Trade. Life in Exile and Road to Freedom. Legacy and Death.

OPOBO CITY 5. Opobo situated east of the kingdom of Bonny is a traditional city in Jubo Jubogha, (known as

southern Nigeria, and was founded in 1870.

"JaJa" to Europeans) led the Anna Pepple house of Bonny. In 1870, he arrived in Opobo from Bonny, moving due to a dispute with a tribal leader of the rival Manilla Pepple family. He overpowered the indigenes and formed what he called "Kingdom of Opobo" which he named for Opobo the Great, a Pepple King in Bonny that reigned from 1792 to 1830. Opobo soon came to dominate the region's lucrative palm oil trade, and was soon home to fourteen of what were formerly Bonny's eighteen trade houses.

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EARLY LIFE 6. Jaja was originally born Jubo Jubogha; born in Umuduruoha,

Amaigbo in Igboland and sold at about age twelve as a slave in Bonny. He later took the name "Jaja" for his dealings with the British. He proved his aptitude for business at an early age, earning his way out of slavery, and was enculturated according to Ijaw (Ibani) rituals and eventually established himself as head of the Anna Pepple House. 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. Soon, a power struggle ensued among rival factions in the houses at Bonny leading to the breakaway of the faction led by Jaja. He established a new settlement, which he named Opobo. He became King Jaja of Opobo and declared himself independent of Bonny.

TRADE 7. Strategically located between Bonny and the production areas of the

hinterland, King Jaja controlled trade and politics in the delta. In so doing, he curtailed trade at Bonny and fourteen of the eighteen Bonny houses moved to Opobo. In a few years, he had become so wealthy that he was shipping palm oil directly to Liverpool. The British consul could not tolerate this situation which was seemed as a by-passing trade policy. Jaja was however, offered a treaty of "protection", in return for which the chiefs usually surrendered their sovereignty. After Jaja's initial opposition, he was
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reassured, in vague terms, that neither his authority nor the sovereignty of Opobo would be threatened. 8. Jaja continued to regulate trade and levy duties on British traders, to

the point where he ordered a cessation of trade on the river until one British firm agreed to pay duties. Jaja refused to comply with the consul's order to terminate these activities, despite British threats to bombard Opobo. Unknown to Jaja, the Scramble for Africa had taken place and Opobo was part of the territories allocated to Great Britain. This was the era of gunboat diplomacy, where Great Britain used her naval power to negotiate conditions favorable to the British. He was later lured into a meeting with the British consul aboard a warship, arrested and sent to Accra in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). He was summarily tried and found guilty of "treaty breaking" and what the British termed as "blocking the highways of trade".

EXILE AND ROAD TO FREEDOM 9. At the 1884 Berlin Conference, other European powers designated

Opobo as British territory, and the British soon moved to claim it. In addition to his trial in Accra, and because of his refusal to cease taxing British traders, Henry Hamilton Johnston, a British vice consul lure him to London for some time, where he met Queen Victoria and was her guest in Buckingham Palace. He was later exiled to Barbados-Saint Vincent in the Caribbean where he was to remain for many years. Due to immense civil unrest, alleged to be caused by the presence of King Jaja, by the enslaved
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people of Barbados and after years of campaigning for his freedom, Jaja was moved to the island of So Vicente, Cape Verde off West Africa, to prevent the possibility of a slave revolt. He eventually won his liberty after years of fighting against his wrongful abduction and consequent exile by the British. It was agreed by Parliament that he could be repatriated to his Kingdom State of Opobo. Jaja was, at that time, an old man and after years in exile in So Vicente, his health had deteriorated. This did not deter him from embarking on a British vessel bound for Opobo. However his health failed and on his way back to his beloved Opobo, Jaja died due to ill health. He was then shipped instead to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, off West African Coast, where he was buried.

LEGACY AND DEATH 10. King Jaja was known to be a very controversial leader by the British

while seems a fearless King by his own people. Ironically, Jaja's dogged insistence on African independence and effective resistance exposed British imperialism and made him the first victim of foreign territorial intrusion in West Africa. The fate of Jaja reverberated through the entire Niger delta. The discovery of quinine as the cure for malaria enabled the British traders to bypass the middlemen and deal directly with the palm oil producers, thus precipitating the decline of the city-states. King Jaja's downfall ensured a victory for British supremacy, paving the way for the eventual imposition of the colonial system in this region by the end of the century.

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11.

The anger and fury felt by his people due to the chain of events that

had preceded compelled many Opobians to press their demands for the body of their king, which was promptly exhumed and transported back to Opobo where he was buried. Many of his people never forgot their beloved king nor gave up hope that one day he would return. When his body was returned, they proceeded to honour him in a manner befitting a much loved and powerful king (Amayanabo) with two years of mourning and with a ceremony immortalising Jaja as a deity.

CONCLUTION 13. The brief discussed the advent of the Opobo city, King Jajas early life

and what transpired during the trade period. The brief also delved on his life in exile and road to freedom and finally, discussed his legacy and subsequent death. The brief is by no means exhausted, however, it is hoped that it has given an insight into king Jajas life.

Oct 11 Monrovia

DM ALI Maj Comm Offr

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