Source: Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. Gale Research, 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. Information regarding his parentage and early childhood, derived from uncertain and speculative oral tradition, is scanty and unsatisfactory. According to informed guesstimates, Ja Ja was born in or , in the lineage of Umuduruoha of Amaigbo village group in the heartland of Igboland, Southeastern Nigeria.

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Tweet Born in a town in the present day Imo State in , sold into slavery in the neighbouring Bonny Kingdom at the age of 12, toiled day and night to bring himself into the reckoning of the Master, then, rose through the ranks to become a head merchant and secured his liberation from bondage. Thereafter, he became the architect of his own destiny. With stupendous wealth and pride of place in society, Jaja sought political power, achieved some by dint of his wealth and influence, and had other levers of power thrust upon him as it were.

It did not end well. What happened, how it all unravelled, is much worse than a Greek tragedy. A personal anecdote is injected towards the end of this write-up to enliven the discussion. Like phoenix, he rose from the darkest valleys of slavery and servitude to become the head-cornerstone of his own kingdom within a generation. He lived long enough to be a slave, merchant, businessman, military strategist and later king and powerful symbol of autonomy for his people.

There were cases of internecine warfare between the Houses, who were in competition for power and influence. Jaja, spent the most productive period of his youth trading and thriving in the cargo shipment of goods across the Atlantic, and very quickly became rich and comfortable, but he wanted more. His meteoric rise took the British aback and led to the Consul, Sir Richard Burton, predicting that Jaja would either be shot or he would beat down all his rivals.

The Pepple House later fell into debt and disarray, and had to be rescued by none other than Jaja. Nonetheless, continuing domestic rivalry and rampaging warfare led him to flee Bonny to establish a new settlement in Opobo in the s with his own well-armed and fully trained militia later established as a dominant force in the region.

Jaja had now become an acclaimed businessman, mega-rich, strong and powerful personality, that even the British began to pay homage to him, enlisting his help with troops to put down a rebellion in the then Gold Coast now Ghana in Jaja could have set about the conquest of the rest of the hinterland stretching to the rest of the southern and northern coasts, but he did not.

This was around the same time the Europeans were meeting to finalise the colonial partition of Africa in Berlin in , whereupon the whole of the Niger Delta and the territories of Southern and Northern Nigeria were ceded to the British. Jaja suddenly woke up to be given the gut-wrenching news, which he resisted at first. Here was a man who could match anything the British had to offer in terms of strategy, intellect, and resources. He had to be eliminated. Not content to keep him even in the safe distance of Ghana, he was again packed off to the Caribbean Island of St.

Vincent, to live further in isolation from his people. From there, Jaja sent several petitions to the British Government pleading for a return to his homeland. The request was finally granted and Jaja was allowed to embark on a voyage home in He did not make it back to the shores of Nigeria, however.

Is it such a coincidence that the winner of the June 12, presidential election in Nigeria, Moshood Abiola, died, having also drunk from a cup of tea served in the company of British diplomats in ? As mind-boggling as this may sound, it is not the main purpose of this write-up.

First, it is about the teaching of history or a lack of it in this country. The manner in which history has been quietly but systematically jettisoned from the school curriculum in this country is nothing short of criminal. A lack of knowledge of history is like a tree growing without its roots. Trust me, I have come across university undergraduates in this country who think Aminu Kano was a folk singer, and Obafemi Awolowo a traditional herbalist!

Are we so morally bankrupt in this country that we no longer care about learning the lessons of history? Who on earth decreed out history from the school curriculum and where are the outrage and backlash against such a retrograde and primitive move?

The second point of this write-up is the choice of the main character, King Jaja of Opobo. I felt an instant connection to this museum upon seeing various artefacts from Nigeria on prominent display and wondering why we, in Nigeria, chose to turn our back on history, then, have the brass neck to protest when others take pride in displaying these looted arts for their own pleasure?

I later moved to live and settle in Forest Hill London, where I joined the Labour Party, fought hard within the party until they put my name forward for election as a London Councillor to represent guess what? How I wish Jaja had had access to a laptop, the Internet, and social media to launch his own anti-imperialist struggle from his enforced location in the Caribbean a couple of centuries back.

A society that keeps its citizens ignorant of their own history lives without its institutional memory, and will soon fall like a house of cards. Like this:.


King Jaja of Opobo, Lessons Of History -By Tayo Oke

Thus, he sent his two sons to school in Scotland but insisted they acquire only secular education. Easy who is bros? Companies based in Lagos Revolvy Brain revolvybrain. The Opobo city state opob most of the sociopolitical and cultural institutions of Bonny, such as the house system, and stuck steadfastly to the religion of his fathers, arguing that Christianity was as a result of societal destabilization.



From the 15th to the 18th century, Opobo, like the other city-states, gained its wealth from the profits of the slave trade. This thriving business was enough to make one rich as well as give him popularity. However, the abolition of the Slave Trade in was supplanted by the trade in palm oil. Palm oil, in itself, was so vibrant that the region was named the Oil Rivers area. 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. King Jaja Opobo statue. He established a new settlement, which he named Opobo in where he became King Jaja of Opobo.

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