By Misbahu Shehu
Since the inauguration of the current All Progressives Congress-led government on the 29th of May 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been championing life-changing policies, appointing advisers and setting up a solid foundation for the building blocks of his Presidency.
It is interesting to note that even with the intense lobby going on, no one has come out to publicly project that they are a potential candidate for a ministerial position, except Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, who slyly let it slip through the press announcement by his colleagues that he was passing over the leadership of GAVI, a global vaccine health behemoth, to return home to serve his country.
Even if this were to be true, it is rather too self-serving and manipulation of the hand of the President to nominate and appoint him as the Minister-designate from Bauchi State, assumingly to superintend over the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Health.
Without any gainsaying, the 2023 general elections were fought on several fronts, with party men and women making huge sacrifices. Some went against their kit and kin, made huge financial contributions, especially at a time of severe Naira scarcity accentuated by the now infamous Naira redesign policy of the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN). They persevered, strategized day and night, spent copious amounts of time and resources to ensure that the APC came out victorious.
Bauchi State was one such battleground. The party hierarchy was deeply entrenched in the pockets of a politically naive former Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, and an equally uninspiring gubernatorial candidate in the person of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd). It took the combined efforts of the traditional and reliable structure in the State for the APC to achieve 37.1 % of the votes cast in the presidential election, surpassing the 25% requirement to tick the box.
This context is very important because despite being a global health actor, nothing is known about Pate’s contributions to Bauchi State APC or the center when it mattered most. He was ensconced in pursuing his GAVI brief, which is not bad, only that it largely perpetuates his personal career growth, while others were in the political trenches ensuring a much-needed victory at the polls.
Considering his relationship with the former President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki, his interests and sympathies might have aligned with that of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
To further buttress how Pate is not a party man or loyalist, he was one of 28 candidates who vied for the governorship of Bauchi State in 2019 when he described himself as an accidental politician. This wasn’t far-fetched as he lost out in the race for the APC ticket and continued his candidature under the more ideological left, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
Other fears harboured against people like him include the instances of so-called technocrats who used national positions and assignments to propel themselves to international boards, and attract the headship of global organizations after their stints at Nigerian Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
We saw in recent history, the likes of Amina Mohammed, who served for a year as Minister of Environment before joining the United Nations as Deputy Secretary-General; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who returned to the World Bank after her term as Minister of Finance and not long ago became the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Former Minister of Agriculture Akinwumi Adesina had the entire goodwill and machinery of government thrown behind him to emerge as the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) President in 2015. In July 2013, Pate resigned his position as Minister of State for Health at a time Nigeria needed him most to further his professional career at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Misbahu Shehu, a public affairs analyst, is based in Bauchi.