Kingdom of Bonny

Kingdom of Bonny
Traditional state

Ijaw States, including Bonny
Coordinates: 4°26′N 7°10′E / 4.433°N 7.167°E / 4.433; 7.167
Country  Nigeria

Rivers State Founders = Aboriginal/Premier Monarchs (Kings) Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariye (Alagbariya) and Asimini

(Founded about 1000AD)
  Amanyanabo Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III
Time zone WAT (UTC+1)

The Kingdom of Bonny is a Nigerian traditional state based on the town and country island of Bonny in Rivers State, Nigeria. Founded between 1000AD and the 12th century AD, it became an important foreign relations and therefore slave trading port, later trading palm oil products. During the 19th century the British became increasingly involved in the internal affairs of the kingdom, in 1886 they assumed control under a protectorate treaty. Today the King of Bonny has a largely ceremonial role.

Early history

The Ibani kingdom was an ancient sovereign state in the South Atlantic Coast, founded about 1000AD. The modern name "Bonny" is a distortion of the original name, "Okoloama".[1] According to tradition the island on which the town of Bonny is sited (Bonny Island) was full of curlews. Hence, its founder (Alagbariye) named it "Okoloama", meaning the town or land of curlew birds. It is from Bonny Island's nomenclature that the founding founders of Bonny Kingdom (Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariye [Kala-beni] and Asimini) named the kingdom, Bonny Kingdom. Opuamakuba, Alagbariye [Kala-beni] and Asimini were three direct-blood descendants of Ebeni (from which the people of the kingdom derived their name "Ibanise" as well as the name of their language "Ibani language". Given that Bonny Island was and still remains beautiful, magnificent and great, early European explorers, visitors and traders who arrived Bonny Island referred to it as being "grand", and hence its appellation "Grand Bonny". Accordingly, the kingdom became popularly known as Grand Bonny Kingdom.[2]

The journey to found Grand Bonny Kingdom was commenced by the three brothers (direct-blood descendants) of Ebeni, Opuamakuba, Alagbariye [Kala-beni] and Asimini. These three brothers of the migrated by land route from their Isedani Lineage of Kolokuma of ancestral Ijawland, in present-day Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, to the Eastern Niger Delta area of Rivers State. They left their Isedani Lineage of Kolokuma and migrated through several mainland areas to Ndoki, where they met some of their blood relatives among whom was the Crown Prince of Ndoki, Ndoli-Okpara, who joined them in their further migration to found Bonny Kingdom.

The founding generation of Bonny Kingdom are represented by the Kingdom by their direct-blood descendant chieftaincy houses known as the "Duawaris", meaning “the Houses of the Ancestors and Ancient Landmarks of the Kingdom”). The Duawaris are in effect direct-blood descendant chieftaincy houses that evolved from the aboriginal/first monarchs and founding fathers of the kingdom, namely Premier Kings Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariye (Founder of Bonny [Grand Bonny Island]: "Okoloamakoromabo") and Asimini, as well as the main blood descendant chieftaincy house of Kongo Lineage, who joined with the rest of the founding generation of the kingdom, after the foundation of Bonny Island. The descendants of Kongo Lineage had also sojourned from the Ebeni-toru (Ebeni-Sea) area of ancestral Ijawland through Sea route to the Eastern Niger Delta, where they became united with the their blood relatives with whom they unanimously agreed to co-exist and thus became known as the collective founding group of Bonny Kingdom.

The monarch of Bonny Kingdom bears the title "Amanyanabo", meaning "owner of the Kingdom", which title originated from the four founding fathers and aboriginal/premier monarchs (Kings) of Bonny Kingdom. These aboriginal monarchs and the rest founding generation of the Kingdom are the actual and inalienable owners of the Bonny Kingdom, from whom their direct-blood descendants and other subsequent inhabitants and people became beneficiaries of the Kingdom are inheriting from the Kingdom. The first four or aboriginal monarchs and founding fathers of the kingdom are Kings Ndoli, Opuamakuba, Alagbariye and Asimini. After these four aboriginal kings, their direct-blood descendants peacefully and smoothly reigned and ruled the kingdom as kings until the era of King Awusa (Halliday), using the same original traditional staff of office, “Odu” of the Kingdom. It was after King Halliday-Awusa, the twelfth king of Bonny kingdom, that King Perekule emerged, albeit ruled without the Kingdom’s original traditional staff of office, “Odu”. It was King Perekule who established the Perekule dynasty.

Bonny kingdom became important in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese and the growth and development of friendship ties as well as trade and commerce between the Kingdom and the visiting Europeans. From the period of the Portuguese friendship and trade between Bonny Kingdom and the Europeans commenced across the Atlantic. The Atlantic trade in slaves thus gradually commenced from the period of the influence of the Portuguese in the Kingdom. At its height of power, Bonny was one of the main entrepôts on the Slave Coast. Later the Dutch and then the British took control of the slave trade in Bonny and other ancient Kingdoms and trading States of the Niger Delta region, with the British renaming the port of Okoloama, "Bonny", and thereby popularized Okoloama as "Bonny" and in turn "Grand Bonny".

When the British passed an Act to abolish the slave trade in 1807, the port of Grand Bonny Island became the export port of oil palm products, ivory and Guinea pepper.[1]

Growing British influence

William Dappa Pepple I ascended the throne in 1830.[3] He became increasingly incompetent, particularly following a stroke in 1852, and stirred up opposition to his rule. In 1854 the British deported the king.[1] King Dapu Fubara II Pepple ("Dappo") was appointed in his place, but died on 13 Aug 1855.[3] The acting British Consul in the Bight of Biafra, J.W.B. Lynslager, signed a document on 11 September 1855 appointing the chiefs Anne Pepple, Ada Allison, Captain Hart and Manilla Pepple as a regency, required to consult with Banigo and Oko Jumbo, "two gentlemen of the river".[4]

Oko Jumbo, who became leader of the Manilla Pepple house and effective ruler of the kingdom, became engaged in a struggle with the Annie Pepple house, which was led by a chief named Jubo Jubogha, known as Ja-Ja to the British. The Fubara (ie, Adum-Fubara] Manilla Pepple house and Opubo [ie, Adum-Opu-bughu) Anne Pepple house are two chieftaincy houses that emerged from the two sons of King Perekule, namely (Fubara (ie, Adum-Fubara] Manilla Pepple and Opubo [ie, Adum-Opu-bughu) Anne Pepple).[5]

Royal Canoe of the Kingdom of Bonny, 1890

In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the British restored King William Dappa Pepple I in 1861, and for the next five years until his death on 30 September 1866 the kingdom was relatively peaceful. King William Dappa was succeeded by his son George Oruigbiji Pepple (born 1849), who had been educated in England.[1] George Pepple was a Christian, and on 21 April 1867, supported by Oko Jumbo and other chiefs, he declared the iguana was no longer the sacred deity of the kingdom.[6] The tension between the Manilla Pepple and Annie Pepple houses revived. In 1869 a major battle between the two factions led to Ja-Ja founding a new state at Opobo, further inland, taking some of the palm oil trade away from Bonny.[5]

Bonny had previously been on reasonably good terms with the Kalabari Kingdom, a trading state on the New Calabar and Imo rivers. With the loss of trade to Opobo, Bonny began pushing up rivers traditionally controlled by Kalabari, causing a series of armed clashes. Bonny was at times assisted by the Nembe Kingdom to the west and Okrika further inland, while Opobo allied with Kalabari. In 1873, and again in 1882 the British consul intervened and forced the feuding parties to agree to treaties.[7]

Protectorate and later history

The unstable balance of power within Bonny deteriorated. On 14 December 1883 King George was deposed.[1]

Bonny Chiefs with Naval Commandant 1896

The next year Oko Jumbo fell out with the other chiefs in Bonny. There were rumours that in order for Chief Oko Jumbo to take advantage of prevailing divide and rule power play of the King Perekule era in his favour, he wanted to place one of his sons on the throne. However, a planned coup attempt of Chief Oko Jumbo in January 1885 came to nothing. As politically ambitious as Chief Oko Jumbo, his son, Herbert Jumbo, who had been educated in England, quarreled with Chief Oko Jumbo and placed himself under the protection of the British consul.[5]

In February 1886 a protectorate treaty was concluded between Bonny and Britain. A ruling council was established, and King George Pepple was restored to his throne. Oko Jumbo was publicly degraded, his bans on Christianity were repealed and afterwards he was a spent force in Bonny politics.[6]

King George died in October 1888, and was succeeded by a series of regents, kings and at one time a Chiefs Council before Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III (Perekule XI) took the throne in 1996.[3]

It is important to recall at this juncture that soon after King Perekule was crowned by the representative of the founding stock of Bonny Kingdom, following the controversy that ended the reign of King Awusa during the Bonny Kingdom and Andoni seven years war, King Perekule revolutionalised power politics in Bonny Kingdom and advanced the Kingdom further by creating chieftaincy houses for those he adopted into the Kingdom in the course of the slave trade, and found worthy of elevation in the Kingdom. This began with King Perekule's elevation of Allison Nwaoju to a chief by creating the Allison Nwaoju house, as the first chieftaincy house outside the Duawari stock of the Kingdom. From the period of the creation of the Allison Nwaoju Chieftancy House, King Perekule systematically commenced divisive power play in the Kingdom that undermined the Duawari houses of the Kingdom.

In the course of divisive power play in Bonny Kingdom, intrigues in the two chieftancy sections of King Perekule, namely those that emerged from Perekule's two above-stated sons (Fubara (ie, Adum-Fubara] Manilla Pepple and Opubo [ie, Adum-Opu-bughu) Anne Pepple) led to the Bonny Kingdom into Civil War of 1869. As a result of this war, Chief Jaja Anna Pepple and those who supported him against Chief Oko Jumbo, the head of the Fubara Manilla Pepple house left Bonny Kingdom to establish Opobo Kingdom with the aid of the British consular authorities at the time. This was how Opobo Kingdom emerged in 1870, to become the second Ibani Kingdom.


Sovereign State from the period of Foundation

Beginning from the founding fathers and aboriginal monarchs, the following are the later Monarchs of Ancient Bonny Kingdom [3]

Start End Ruler
1759 1760 Awusa (Halliday)
1760 Perekule I "Captain Pepple"
1792 Fubara I Agbaa Pepple
1792 1828 Opubo Fubara Pepple
1828 1830 Bereibibo Bristol-Alagbariya (also described by some as Pepple IV)
1830 23 January 1854 Dappa Perekule (1st time) (installed Jan 1837)
23 January 1854 13 August 1855 Dapu Fubara II Pepple "King Dappo" (d. 1855)
11 September 1855 18 August 1861 Regency
18 August 1861 30 September 1866 William Dappa Pepple I (Dappa Perekule) (2nd time)
30 September 1866 14 December 1883 George Oruigbiji Pepple I

Protectorate and Nigerian Federation

Rulers after the kingdom became part of the British protectorate, then the independent Federation of Nigeria:[3]

Start End Ruler
22 Jan 1887 31 Oct 1888 George Oruigbiji Pepple I (2nd time)
31 Oct 1888 28 Feb 1892 Waribo (Regent)
1892 1923 Ate (Regent)
1932 14 Feb 1932 Claude Sodienye (Regent, d. 1952)
14 Feb 1932 1937 Secondus George Pepple II (d. 1939)
1937 1952 Claude Sodienye -Regent (2nd time)
1952 27 Dec 1957 Francis D. Banigo (Regent)
27 Dec 1957 1970 Eugene William Dappa Pepple II
1970 1978 Regency
1978 1993 Opuada Pepple
1993 1996 Chiefs Council
1996 Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III (Perekule XI)


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Cliff Pereira & Simon McKeon. "BLACK AND ASIAN PEOPLE IN VICTORIAN BEXLEY. GEORGE PEPPLE". Bexley Council. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
  2. Kenneth Onwuka Dike (1959). Trade and politics in the Niger Delta, 1830–1885: an introduction to the economic and political history of Nigeria. Clarendon Press. p. 24.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Traditional States of Nigeria". World Statesmen. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  4. Great Britain. Foreign Office (1866). British and foreign state papers, Volume 47. H.M.S.O. p. 548. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  5. 1 2 3 S.J.S Cookey (2005). King Jaja of the Niger Delta: His Life and Times 1821 – 1891. UGR publishing. p. 117ff. ISBN 0-9549138-0-9. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  6. 1 2 G. O. M. Tasie (1978). Christian missionary enterprise in the Niger Delta 1864–1918. BRILL. p. 108. ISBN 90-04-05243-7. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  7. G. I. Jones (2001). The trading states of the oil rivers: a study of political development in Eastern Nigeria. James Currey Publishers. p. 15ff. ISBN 0-85255-918-6.
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