The Honorable Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff was undoubtedly one of the most perceptive, resolute, devoted, and compassionate individuals to have graced the lands of Brass Local Government Area in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, as well as the broader global stage. He was born into a family of affluence on Monday, December 17th, 1954. His father, Chief Inabara Rufus Spiff, was a figure of political influence and a contractor associated with the government of the then Eastern Nigeria / Old Rivers State, as well as the multinational corporation Agip Nigeria. Chief Inabara Rufus Spiff was a member of the Rufus Spiff family from the Ada Ama community in Twon Brass Community. He passed away in 1983. Likewise, his mother, Mrs. Jenny Inabara Rufus Spiff, was part of the Agreen Waribo family from the Cameron Ama community in Twon-Brass. She, too, was a politician and a prosperous businesswoman. Sadly, she passed away in 1996. The late Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff held the position of the eldest child in his family.
Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff embarked on his educational journey at St. Barnabas Primary School, Twon-Brass, where he attended classes from 1961 to 1967. Following the conclusion of the Nigeria civil war in 1970, he gained admission to Nembe National Grammar School in Nembe. In 1974, he completed his studies there and performed exceptionally well in the West African Schools Certificate Examination. During the same year, he secured a spot at the College of Science and Technology (CST), now known as the Rivers State University in Port Harcourt. He pursued a degree in Mathematics and Physics, ultimately graduating in 1976.
In 1978, he made a journey to the United States of America to further his studies. He achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Science, specializing in Political Science with supplementary focus on Mathematics and Computer Science, from the University of Illinois Chicago Circle (UICC) in 1983. His educational experiences, both within Nigeria and abroad, proved to be invaluable as he later ventured into the complex realm of Nigerian politics. He managed to navigate the challenges of politics and administration with relative ease, leveraging his educational background to find success. Following his graduation from UICC, he spent a period of time residing in the USA.
Personal Working Experiences
Emerging from modest yet dynamic beginnings, Senator Inatimi Spiff’s professional journey evolved into a diverse array of enriching experiences, a narrative that painted a vivid tapestry of skills spanning both the private and public sectors. Inatimi embarked on his career trajectory by serving as a part-time educator at the Government Secondary School, Twon-Brass, from June to September of 1974.
Between January 1980 and August 1982, he assumed the role of a Sales Clerk at Garracts Pop-Corn in Chicago, Illinois. Concurrently, from February 1981 to December 1982, he took on the position of a Library Assistant at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Library.
Upon his return to Nigeria from the United States, he secured a position as the manager at River Creek Contractors, a Marine Services firm, where he contributed his efforts from January 1983 to February 1989. Additionally, he held a role at Braszo International Merchants Nigeria Ltd. between March 1987 and December 1989. As time advanced, he ascended in his professional journey, eventually assuming the role of Chairman for several business entities. Notably, he became the Chairman of Belleza De Sophia Hotel in 2008 and later took on leadership roles at Murphy Shipping Company and Commercial Services Ltd. in 2013.
Okilo and Inatimi Connection
The comprehensive biography of the late Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff would be incomplete without acknowledging the historical context and individuals who played pivotal roles in shaping the political landscape of the 1970s and beyond. These figures greatly influenced his path, contributing to his eventual success in politics. Notably, Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff’s father was a prominent political figure in the mid-1970s, achieving victory in the councilorship elections in Twon-Brass.
During this period in 1976, Nigeria was undergoing preparations for drafting a new constitution, necessitating the establishment of a constituent assembly to deliberate on the nation’s destiny. Representatives from various constituencies were required for the senatorial district. Chief Okilo, from the Ogbia region, and Engr. Chief Hans Suku Ogbari, a foremost Engineer from Nembe, both aspired to represent the senatorial district at the assembly. Though Chief Rufus-Spiff was not initially involved in the race, he played a crucial role in the outcome. Chief Okilo and Engr. Chief Hans Suku Ogbari were both vying for the ticket, but Chief Rufus-Spiff became the determining factor.
At that time, Chief Okilo had limited contact or political ties with Chief Rufus-Spiff. A relative of Chief Okilo, Late Chief Dangosu from Otakeme in the Ogbia Kingdom, facilitated a meeting between Rufus-Spiff and Okilo through the efforts of late Chief Benjamin Abali-Shidi. Chief Abali-Shidi, an Ogbia descendant on Rufus-Spiff’s wife’s side, was also the head Chief of Shidi-ama in Twon-Brass Kingdom. Through their efforts, a relationship was established.
On the day of the elections, Chief Inabara Rufus-Spiff upheld his commitment and backed Chief Okilo, leading to Engr. Chief Hans Suku Ogbari’s defeat. Chief Okilo then secured the victory in the elections and participated in the constituent assembly of 1976. He later won the 1979 governorship elections. It is evident that without the collaborative efforts of Chief Inabara Rufus-Spiff, Chief Dangosu, and Chief Benjamin Abali-Shidi, Chief Melford Okilo might not have achieved the significant accomplishments he did in his lifetime.
Furthermore, the kindness demonstrated by Inabra Rufus-Spiff towards Okilo was reciprocated and extended to Inatimi Rufus-Spiff and his family, shaping their lives and experiences in meaningful ways. This interconnected web of relationships underscores the intricate nature of politics and the profound impact of individuals on each other’s trajectories.
Inatimi’s Political Journey
It’s narrated that during the year 1988, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff received political guidance and mentoring from notable Ogbia figures, specifically Chief Asara A. Asara and the late Honourable Ngo Mac-Eteli. Around this time, he also held the position of personal Secretary to Chief Melford Okilo. Notably, it was Chief Asara who introduced Senator Inatimi Spiff to his political associates during the formation of the National Republican Convention (NRC), ultimately leading to his appointment as the State Secretary of the party.
In the month of May in 1989, he assumed the role of Secretary for the Nigerian National Convention, one of thirteen political groups established after President Babangida’s government lifted the ban on partisan politics. Following the dissolution of these political associations and the subsequent emergence of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), Inatimi Spiff joined the latter.
In 1991, he took on the responsibilities of a campaign Manager and Administrative Secretary for the governorship campaign of Chief Ada George and Dr. Peter Odili. Inatimi Spiff’s dedication and hard work bore fruit when Chief Ada George achieved a resounding victory, securing the position of Governor for the Old Rivers State. This success highlighted the effectiveness of Inatimi Spiff’s efforts within the realm of politics and campaign management.
As Secretary To Government
In the year 1992, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff assumed the role of Secretary to Government and Head of Service. Throughout his tenure, he was characterized by his dedication to selfless service, a foundational principle rooted in his conviction that being a politician meant more than just winning elections. He viewed elected positions as avenues to serve the people’s needs. When the military reclaimed power in 1994 under the leadership of the late General Sani Abacha, Senator Inatimi Spiff temporarily withdrew from active politics to concentrate on his private business endeavors.
The establishment of Bayelsa State on October 1, 1996, marked a significant achievement in which he played an instrumental role, alongside other founding figures. Senator Inatimi Spiff continued to hold pivotal positions as one of the state’s founders and as a dedicated politician. As Nigeria transitioned from military rule to civilian governance, he became a key figure in the political landscape.
In 1998, against the backdrop of evolving political dynamics during the twilight years of military rule, he became a founding member, Protem National Secretary, and subsequently the National Administrative Secretary of the National Solidarity Movement (NSM) from August to December of that year. The NSM was among the nine political parties provisionally registered that later merged with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Additionally, Senator Inatimi Spiff aligned himself with the United National Convention Party (UNCP) through the influence of his mentor and political associate, Chief Asara A. Asara. Demonstrating his strategic acumen, he was appointed as the Secretary of the UNCP. Other notable figures in the UNCP at that time included late Senator David Brigidi as Chairman, Chief Asara as Organising Secretary, and Chief Timipre Sylva as Financial Secretary, among others.
In the year 1999, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff was initially slated to run alongside late Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha as his Deputy Governor in the elections. However, for reasons that emerged, Alamieyeseigha changed his decision and nominated Dr. Goodluck Jonathan instead. Despite this turn of events, Inatimi Spiff handled the situation with a composed and philosophical demeanor.
Subsequently, in 1999, the Bayelsa East senatorial ticket was designated to Brass. While many expected Inatimi Spiff to contend for the ticket, he took a different stance. Reflecting on his political mentor, Chief Melford Okilo, he made a decision, albeit amidst some controversy, to recommend an Ogbia Chief for the Brass ticket. He was driven by the concern that without a political platform for a dignified retirement, Okilo’s political reputation might be tarnished and jeopardized.
Inatimi Spiff remained steadfast in his commitment to his father’s legacy and saw no justification in undoing what his father had accomplished. He firmly believed in the unity of the Ogbia, Brass, and Nembe people, advocating for a shared political destiny. Employing his political acumen, Inatimi Spiff nurtured a senatorial ambition for Chief Okilo in a strategic manner. This remarkable feat resulted in Chief Okilo becoming a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without needing to campaign publicly, a feat that was truly unique in the political landscape.
Inatimi Spiff’s actions exemplified his strong sense of loyalty to his father’s legacy, his dedication to unity among different communities, and his skillful political maneuvering.
In the year 2001, going against the counsel of many, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff accepted a political appointment under the leadership of Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha as the Honourable Commissioner for Education. Despite the advice that the role might overshadow his political stature, given his prior position as SSG/HOS in the old Rivers state, he held a different perspective. His principle was grounded in delivering genuine and impactful service to his constituents rather than pursuing personal pride.
In alignment with his convictions, he embarked on his role with a commitment to provide exceptional service to the people. During his time as the Commissioner of Education, he established a remarkable legacy. His integrity and transparency were unquestionable, as evidenced by his initiative to construct an office building using the overhead costs of the Ministry. This was in contrast to the practices of some colleagues who allowed such funds to be used for less substantial purposes.
In addition, he achieved a significant feat by successfully organizing the payment of bursaries to students from Bayelsa state who were pursuing tertiary education globally. In this way, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff demonstrated his dedication to ensuring that resources were utilized for meaningful endeavors that benefited the people, rather than for frivolous or self-serving pursuits.
In June 2003, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff achieved the remarkable feat of being elected and subsequently inaugurated as a Senator in the Fifth Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His constituency was the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, and he held this position until the conclusion of his tenure in June 2007. Throughout his time in office, he was recognized for his outstanding representation of his constituents, characterized by a strong sense of morality and an unwavering commitment to their progress.
In fulfilling his responsibilities as a Senator, he actively participated in various Senate committees, each focused on diverse aspects of governance. Notably, he held the position of Chairman for the Senate Committee on Gas, a pivotal role given the importance of the gas sector in the Nigerian economy. Additionally, he served as the Vice Chairman for the Senate Committee on Air Force and the Senate Committee on Commerce. He was also a member of several other Senate committees, including those dedicated to Establishment and Public Service, Women Affairs and Youth Development, and National Planning.
In these capacities, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff demonstrated his dedication to addressing a broad spectrum of issues and contributing to the overall advancement of the nation. His service in these various committees underscored his commitment to diverse aspects of governance, highlighting his multidimensional approach to leadership and his desire to effect positive change across different domains.
In 2019, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff took on the role of Director General for the Kemela Okara Campaign Organization. This was during the time when Kemela Okara, Esq., the former Secretary to the State Government, was contending for the flag bearer position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the gubernatorial primary election of that year. In this capacity, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff led the campaign organization effectively and commendably.
Notably, he displayed his characteristic sportsmanship by wholeheartedly supporting the candidature of His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, when he emerged as the flag-bearer of the PDP after the primary election.
On June 24, 2022, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff was appointed as the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Reconciliation Committee. During his tenure in this role, the reconciliation committee achieved a remarkable success rate in reconciling disgruntled party members. Many individuals who had previously left the party returned to its fold due to the efforts of the committee under his leadership. His contributions proved invaluable to both the party and the administration of His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri.
From 2018 until his passing, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff held the position of Chairman of the Governing Council of the Bayelsa State College of Health Technology, Otuogidi, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Through this role, he continued to contribute to education and public service in his region, further demonstrating his dedication to the betterment of his community and state.
Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff found solace in the Pentecostal faith, wholeheartedly embracing its teachings and principles. His fervor for spiritual matters intensified when he experienced a transformative rebirth into God’s Kingdom in the year 1984. Throughout his life until his passing, he dedicated himself to the cause of promoting genuine spiritual growth among individuals through the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. His commitment to this mission was evident in his actions and interactions with others.
He found his spiritual home at the Living Faith Church, also known as Winner’s Chapel, where he worshiped and nurtured his faith. This spiritual foundation played a significant role in shaping his perspectives and influencing his life choices.
In 1993, he entered into marriage, establishing a family of his own. He and his spouse were blessed with children, further adding to the legacy he leaves behind. His dedication to family and faith underscored the multifaceted nature of his character and the diverse roles he fulfilled throughout his lifetime.
Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff fell ill and subsequently passed away at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2022. He was 66 years old. His life and accomplishments have left a significant impact, and his memory will surely be cherished by many.
- Stephen Temegha Olali, PhD, Chief Historian andArchivist of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Niger Delta Studies
- Memoir of late Chief Ben Abali-Shidi (1923-2013) HRH of Shidi-AMA Twon-Brass (1972-2023)