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The Life and History Of King Jaja Of Opobo: From Slave To King and Millionaire

The Life and History Of King Jaja Of Opobo: From Slave To King and Millionaire

The Life and History Of King Jaja Of Opobo: From Slave To King and Millionaire

-We all heard stories and songs about Jaja of Opobo but most people don’t know the real history of the Nigerian King.


Grab your drink and popcorn while we take you down ancient history on the tale of this great King.

King Jaja is recognized as the founder of Opobo city-state, an area that is now part of Rivers state of Nigeria.


Named Mbanaso Okwaraozurumba, King Jaja was born in 1821. Jaja of Opobo grew up as a normal child till 12 when he was sold into slavery to Bonny.

Jaja of Opobo at 12

After being sold into slavery into Bonnyland, Jaja was given the name, Jubo Jubogha by his master.

His name was shortened to Jaja based on the initials “J J” by the British colonial masters.

At a young age, Jaja of Opobo showed great entrepreneurial and trading skills which led to him being acquired by Chief Alali.

Now how did this slave become a king?

In Bonnyland during those times, the majority of their wealth was gotten from dealings of slave trading. This gave anybody with business acumen a chance of becoming a ruler, even a slave. Slaves were granted freedom if they had a successful business.

Jaja worked for Chief Alali and managed a side business in his spare time. In good time, he was able to make enough money to buy his freedom.

After becoming a free man, Jaja focused on his business and made it more successful by learning tricks from trading with the British.

At a young age, he became well regarded with one of the most successful businesses in the region.

Everything got better when Jaja took a risk. His former master, the ruler of the Opuba Anne Pepple Royal House passed away leaving a lot of debt for the royal house.

No one was interested in taking the throne due to the debts incurred. Jaja seized the opportunity, believing that it would be beneficial to his business and it was. The smart businessman was able to pay the debt in only two years.

Jaja of Opobo used his business acumen to make Anne Pepple Royal House one of the richest in the Bonny empire. Unfortunately, he lost the Royal house to the Manilla Pepple house after a fire outbreak.

Jaja went on to create the Opobo city-state and under his administration, the city-state became powerful and took over 14 trade houses in Bonny (Out of 18).

Jaja welcomed the western development and built schools and other amenities in Opobo. He was, however, against the political ambitions of the western world and protected his city.

Jaja began exporting palm oil out to the UK, the first Nigerian and West African to do that. He had so much power over imports and export that even the British were forced to pay Taxes.

In 1885, the British took the Gulf of Guinea under their control and allowed free trade. Jaja opposed this but he was labeled a terrorist.

Read also: The legend of princess Inikpi

In 1887, King Jaja of Opobo was trapped by the British and deported to Gold Coast, modern-day Ghana. In Gold coast, he was tried for terrorism and illegal trade and found guilty. He was then exiled to St Vincent’s Island.

After several appeals about his unfair treatment to the British empire, he was permitted to go back home. Unfortunately, the great Jaja of Opobo didn’t make it back.

Jaja died on the way back. Many speculated that he was poisoned with a cup of tea.

Jaja’s legacy, however, remained. The city of Opobo is what is regarded as Rivers State today. A huge statue of King Jaja was erected and can be found in the city center.

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