Is there really anything about Opobo outside the Jaja of Opobo? It’s been 120 years since King Jaja moved on. But Opobo is not moving on without him, or so it seems.
Maybe, because it is an island overshadowed by the higher profile of the neighbouring oil and gas rich Grand Bonny Island with its estuary and harbour facilities, people do not want to inquire much about Opobo.
The land might not have much outside its marine resources. But rooted in this little island town that was founded in 1870 by the late Jaja of Opobo, his family and friends that left Bonny because of a disagreement are its human resources, the quality of which seemed unparalleled in the entire Niger Delta region.
They are spread across all sectors and spectres of human endeavour, But they did conquer one area – education. It was the people of Opobo that helped spread education and Christian civilisation to most parts of Eastern Nigeria. They were teachers, interpreters, church wardens and civil servants. The most celebrated educated person of the former Rivers State of the 20th Century was Dr. Samuel J. Cookey (1914 – 2003), an Opobo son who worked around the world to bring education to humanity.
His most prominent political contribution was the heading of the Political Bureau in 1986, which mid-wived the present political system in Nigeria that recommended a two-party system.
Other prominent citizens of Opobo include Chief Gabriel Toby, an unparalleled civil servant.
He was the civil servants’ civil servant. He ended up as Deputy Governor of Rivers State and has now donated his daughter, Ibim Semenitari, to public service. She is a journalist, commissioner, (a former Ag.) Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and most recently a member of the Governing Council of Ondo State University.
Prof. Sylvanus Cookey, the first indigenous Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, the Fubara Professors; public relations gurus Sam Epelle, Jake Epelle and Bobo Brown, and management captain, Kalada Apiafi are all Opobo children. But they aren’t noisy about their pedigree. In Cross River State, Solomon Jaja lived and served the people long after Opobo moved over to Rivers State. Their king, Jaja of Opobo, never takes the back seat in the gathering of kings in the country.
What’s more? The unity and love that pervade among them are legendary. Wherever an Opobo son finds cool, he invites his kinsfolk over without creating any friction with their hosts.
Of recent, despite their minority status they have been able to attract for themselves plum political positions – Deputy Governor for eight years; Senator for four years; Secretary to the State Government; Commissioner for Works for four years; House of Representatives membership for four years; top rated governorship candidate that ran the most flamboyant campaign in the history of Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who is now the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
The people have an unparalleled human relations quality; and their women are most hospitable. The people have despite western civilisation and influence, sustained the Nwaotam Masquerade culture and carry it to wherever they go.
I have never seen a people that are more at peace with themselves and their neighbours as the people of Opobo in the Niger Delta Region: A pleasant gift they can offer to their Niger Delta neighbours.
At Christmas, I hear the town is always abuzz with festivities. Night never falls on Opobo. Now that access to this island is being created by road, why don’t we make it to Opobo, for those with phobia for water, this year? Christian Finebone, the effervescent political communicator, never gets tired of showcasing his trips by water to Opobo.
He may offer to chaperon the trip.