Money Market

Nigeria’s First Millionaire And How The British Ended His Trade Dominance

Jaja of Opobo, the person who rose against the chances of poverty and colonial rule to become Pre- Nigeria’s first international trader and millionaire within the 18th century was born as Mbananso Okwaraozurumba in Amaigbo village in what’s now Imo State in present-day Nigeria.

The founder and king of a prosperous city, he’s popularly referred to as Jaja Opogo, a reputation given to him by British which later became his household name. To the Igbos, he’s referred to as Jaja Jubogba or Jo Jo Ubam. he’s considered a hero who left a mark of great significance within the history of Nigeria and West Africa .

At the age of 12, Jaja was captured by his father’s enemies and sold into slavery ending up within the Kingdom of Bonny. it had been his first owner who gave him the name Jubo Jubogha. Jaja worked very hard for his master and was very humble until he was sold again to Chief Alali who was the ruler of the Opubo Anne Pepple royalty .

In those days, the Bonny Empire was a flourishing kingdom in ancient Nigeria that gained its wealth through trade and business within the slave traffic . Slaves were granted their freedom if that they had successful businesses and will rise within the social classes to become prominent people in society also as rule. Jaja worked for the chief and run businesses on the side until he was ready to buy his freedom and become a person of is own.

With his new found freedom and already flourishing businesses, Jaja targeting running his businesses well and learnt the tricks and wits of working as a trader especially with British . At a really young age, he had earned for himself high social station and an enviable name within the trading business in West Africa .

At the death of his former enslaver, the ruler of the Opuba Anne Pepple royalty , there was nobody curious about taking over the throne due to the debts the royalty had incurred over the years. Seeing it as both a business opportunity and how of honouring the late chief, Jaja boldly took up the role and paid off the debts during a matter of two years.

By the rule of Jaja, the Anne Pepple royalty became the richest and strongest trading house under the Bonny Empire. But in 1859, Jaja was forced to go away the royalty after a fireplace outbreak allowing the envious Manilla Pepple House to require over the Anne Pepple House. within the year of 1870, Jaja established the Opobo city-state.

Through his intelligent administration and expansion of trade links, Opobo city-state became powerful and had control over the normal sources of vegetable oil within the region and took over fourteen of the eighteen trade houses under the Bonny Empire.


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Jaja was very opened to western social development and learnt to talk very fluent English, building schools in Opobo, also as other social amenities which quickly developed the town . Jaja employed many African Americans to show in his schools providing quality education to students. Despite being hospitable western trade and social development, Jaja was greatly against the political ambitions of British Empire and guarded his city for as long as he could.

It only took a short time for Jaja to be labelled as a tyrant by British who tried to urge obviate the powerful King and businessman who was responsible of several of West Africa’s biggest trading businesses. To convince British that an African was capable of being great without their help, Jaja started exporting vegetable oil on to the united kingdom through his own ships pioneering Nigerian export trade and becoming the primary Nigerian and West African to directly export to the West.

Jaja became a millionaire and caused the western trade to fall in West Africa . Through his monopoly over importation and exportation of oil, foreign traders especially the Britsih were forced to pay taxes.

Through his wealth, King Jaja also became a robust politician and owned a strong military which was sent bent help British during the Anglo-Ashanti wars in 1875 to which the Queen honoured him. Jaja had many wives and youngsters who he took pride in and was a really responsible father sending all of his children to the simplest school in West Africa and therefore the West.

In 1884, King Jaja of Opobo was made to sign a peace with the Britsih under the orders of Consul Hewet. The treaty made Opobo city a protectorate under British . King Jaja only agreed to the treaty after it had been agreed that the clause under the treaty that allowed trade and unlimited access to the town be removed.

A year later, British empire declared the Gulf of Guinea a British protectorate allowing trade and Jaja opposed this ruling declaring that his city won’t be suffering from such rules. At the Berlin conference of 1884, he was labelled a terrorist and accused of illegal trade and plans to rid his city of British .

In 1887, King Jaja of Opobo was trapped by British through the then Vice Consul Harry Johnston who invited Jaja for a peace talk conference which he accepted after several appeals. While onboard the warship Goshawk, King Jaja of Opobo was served with deportation or to ascertain the entire destruction of his city. King Jaja was deported to Accra, Gold Coast, now modern-day Ghana, where he was immediately arrested, tried and located guilty on all charges and exiled to St Vincents Island within the West Indies .

His absence caused a halt in trade between British and therefore the City of Opobo. After several appeals to British Empire against his unfair treatment, King Opobo was granted permission to return to his city-state in 1891 but died on his journey home. it’s widely speculated that he was poisoned to death after being served a cup of tea with strict orders to tend to him.

The city of Opobo still exists in modern-day River State, Nigeria and an enormous statue of the good king whose rule has been described because the fairest, on the brink of perfect and a just practice of democracy Africa has ever seen are often found within the centre of the town.

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Dominic Nwodo

One Of The Best Content Creator/Blogger In Nigeria. 👉DM Me For Business 08109211747

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