King Jaja Of Opobo
Jaja of Opobo (1821–1891) was a Nigerian merchant prince and the founder of Opobo city-state. Born in Amaigbo in Igboland and sold at about age twelve as a slave in Bonny. Jaja was named "Jubo Jubogha" by his first master; he 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, was acculturated 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 internal divisions forced Jaja to break away as Opobo city-state in 1867.
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. 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.
At the 1884 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 1887. When Jaja arrived, the British arrested him and tried him in Accra in the Gold Coast then exiled him to Saint Vincent in the West Indies.
In 1891, Jaja was granted permission to return to Nigeria, but died en route. Following his exile and death, the power of the Opobo state rapidly declined.
He was perhaps the most troublesome thorn in the flesh of 19th-century British imperial ambition in southern Nigeria. The story of Ja Ja recounts a man of servile status hurdling intimidating odds to attain wealth and power, and founding in the latter half of the 19th century the most prosperous city-state in the Delta area of Nigeria.