The life and times of King Ja Ja of Opobo, 1812-1895
The title of this study is ’’The Life and Times of King Ja Ja of Opobo, 1812-1895"* The central theme, therefore, is the study of a man. King Ja Ja’s life history provides not only a fascinating case study of an African ruler’s response to British imperial expansion in the nineteenth century, but, above all, a rare instance of indigenous African reaction to the forces of ’’Western Civilisation”# Ja Ja was a great man. Great men of course, do not arise in a vacuum, and factors such as childhood influences and exceptional opportunities for advancement may be as significant in the making of greatness as individual ability. In Ja Ja’s case, the politico-social and economic organisations of Bonny, Britain’s ideas about civilising the Niger Belta and a superb intellect and vision conspired to produce Ja Ja, King of Opobo. The significance of the man-on-the-spot is seen in the fact that it was on the basis of reports f'rom consular officials that Britain began to encroach upon King Ja Ja’s empire. Ja Ja’s reaction to this encroachment which culminated in his deportation reveals two cultures in conflict. Even in exile, Ja Ja continued to defend his stand against the British. He regarded himself, and was regarded by others as the King of Opobo. The most significant fact however was the attitude of Opobo people after Ja Ja’s deportation. They stood firm against European penetration of the interior, continued to look to Ja Ja as their King and after his death, would not elect a new Head until the traditional funeral ceremonials had been observed for Ja Ja. As far as Opobo men were concerned, if King Ja Ja lost his throne, the lost sovereign rights did not accrue to Britain.