Thursday, August 18, 2022

How King Jaja of Opobo was slain with a cup of tea in 1891.

King Jaja of Opobo (1821-1891), the richest and most influential monarch in the Niger Delta and sole founder of Opobo, was Igbo, a tribe in Eastern Nigeria.

Born in his native Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, present-day Imo State, and named Mbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa at birth, he was seized by slave traders and traded into captivity in Bonny at the age of 12, where he gained his way out of slavery had also embraced the Ijaw-Ibani culture.
Though he developed astounding wealth for Bonny, when that empire's throne became vacant, his search to vie for it was politically checkmated by a fellow wealthy slave (wealth was a deciding characteristic in monarchy).

Thus, he left with his followers to establish a new town, Opobo, near Andoni. Bonny and its connected British traders would come to regret that day.
The latest development was that Jaja (aka Jubo Jubogha) relocated in 1869, was named Opobo, and the location was strategically positioned so that he could transact first-hand with both nationwide and international merchants, virtually becoming a monopolist in the oil palm business.
Trade and the resulting wealth detonated so much so that his former British trading associates lost £100,000 (in 1870), and Bonny begged him to return (which he refused).
He then came to the awareness of Queen Victoria who, engraved by his influence, identified him as King of Opobo in 1873 and also personally delivered him with a sword in Buckingham Palace in 1875 after he sent troops to assist Britain in the Ashante War.

The Scramble for Africa started in the 19th century. Jaja was notorious for resisting foreign political and financial influence and he kept taxing the British merchants much to their resentment.
Greed and the worry about Jaja's influence led the new Consul-General, to invite Jaja out of his empire and on board a ship, ''The Goshawk'', for trade dialogues.
Once on board, an eviction order was served on him. He was illegally tried and sentenced in Gold Coast, present-day Ghana, in 1887, and expelled to Saint Vincent in the distant West Indies and to be later migrated to Barbados.

His appeals to return to his kingdom were granted in 1891. Unfortunately, he passed on in Tenerife, en route to Opobo, after being allegedly poisoned with a cup of tea. After his death, the power of Opobo died with him.
Jaja's body was accepted with much sorrow by his people who gave him a full, honorable monarchial burial. He was 70.

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