Friday, 6 March 2009
Jaja of Opobo
Jaja of Opobo (1821–1891) was a 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 proved his aptitude for business at an early age, earning his way out of slavery, was enculturated 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.
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.