Jaja of Opobo

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King Jaja of Opobo
Jaja of Opobo.jpg
King Jaja of Opobo, Opobo
Reign25 December 1870–September 1887
Coronation25 December 1870
BornMbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa[1]
c. 1821
Diedc. 1891
Mbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa "Jaja"

King Jaja of Opobo (full name: Jubo Jubogha; 1821–1891) was a merchant prince and the founder of Opobo city-state in an area that is now the Rivers State of Nigeria. Born in Umuduruoha Amaigbo in present day Imo State, he was taken to Bonny by slave raiders as a youth.[2][3] Jumo Jumofe later took the name "Jaja".

Jaja earned his way out of slavery; he was enculturated according to Ijaw (Ibani) rituals and rose to head the Anna Pepple House merchant faction of Bonny Island. Under him, Anna Pepple absorbed other trade houses until a dispute with the Manilla Pepple House led by Oko Jumbo compelled Jaja to break away to form the Opobo city-state (26 miles east of Bonny) in 1869.

Opobo came to dominate the region's palm oil trade, and controlled fourteen of what were formerly Bonny's eighteen trade houses. Jaja blocked the access of British merchants to the interior effectively monopolizing trade; Opobo also shipped palm oil directly to Liverpool, independent of British middlemen.

At the 1884 Berlin Conference the Europeans designated Opobo as British territory. When Jaja refused to cease taxing the British traders, Henry Hamilton Johnston, a British vice consul, invited Jaja for negotiations in 1887. Jaja was arrested on arrival aboard a British vessel; he was tried in Accra in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) then exiled, first to London, and later to Saint Vincent and Barbados in the British West Indies.[4][5]

In 1891, Jaja was granted permission to return to Opobo, but died en route.[6] Following his exile and death, the power of the Opobo state rapidly declined.

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  1. ^ Ofonagoro 1978, p. 145.
  2. ^ Cookey 2005, p. 27.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, p. 201.
  4. ^ "King Ja Ja". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 24 April 1891. col. 1322.
  5. ^ Cookey 2005, p. 159.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, p. 203.


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