Barring any unforeseen circumstance, the anxiety over names of those that may make the list of nominees to be submitted to the Senate for screening and confirmation as Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu might be put to rest this week, Forefront Magazine reports.
This was as it was gathered that the visit of world famous billionaire, Bill Gates to President Tinubu might likely affect some of the nominees, particularly in some key thematic and critical sectors of the nation’s economy that have direct impact on the lives of the people.
It was gathered from a credible source in the presidency that the visit of Bill Gates to President Tinubu was more than meet the eyes, as he was said to have specifically requested the president on the need to appoint some particular persons for the Health, ICT and Education sectors of the economy.
The development is believed not to have gone down well with some power blocs within the presidency close to President Tinubu, who saw the move as a direct attempt to, not only interfere, but directly determine for the administration how it should run and manage the affairs of the country.
It was further gathered that Bill Gates specifically demanded of President Tinubu to nominate Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, who was recently appointed as Chief Executive Officer of GAVI Board for the position of Minister of Health.
Recall that the co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Mr. Bill Gates, at an event co-hosted by the Lagos Business School and Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), Africa.com and Channels Television, gave a peep into his meeting with Tinubu.
“I had a chance to meet with the newly elected President (Tinubu) and to encourage him that as resources are being allocated, he needs to keep the challenges of equity in mind. We really do need to drive access to the key building blocks, for example, in the Health sector where there is a limited budget. You cannot run a good primary healthcare system. You can’t get vaccines.
“Our foundation is excited to be here and ready to work with incredible local partners. We’ve done a lot on malaria eradication, polio eradication….
“If you look across the country, mothers’ chances of surviving childbirth or chances of a child growing up healthy varies. Nigeria has one of the biggest young populations in the world. AI (artificial intelligence) will be used to design malaria drugs….
“The message that I shared with President Tinubu on Monday and what I will share with other leaders tomorrow (Thursday) is that they must invest in equitable solutions and invest in the people who are working on them.
“Nigeria is full of talented people with a lot of potential. But it can be very hard to fulfil that potential if you don’t have access to the most basic building blocks of life.
“It may not surprise you that Nigeria’s state and federal governments only spend the equivalent of $10 per person on health each year, compared to $31 in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Leaders need to make a much bigger financial commitment, focus most of all on improving primary health systems, making sure clinics are well-staffed and supplied, making sure children get the vaccines they need. All of this is absolutely essential to improving health and opportunity and unlocking all of Nigeria’s potential.
“I will also be talking with Nigeria’s government leaders about increasing commitments to agriculture and digital financial systems.”
Gates preference for Dr. Pate, Forefront reports, is not going down well with some core party loyalists close to President Tinubu, who felt that a faithful and loyal party member like Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who is so versed and knowledgeable in health matters and also sponsored over 15 health-related Bills while in the Senate should be jettisoned.
Dr. Ali Pate was recently appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Vaccine Alliance by the GAVI Board following an extensive recruitment process and was expected to assume duty on August 3, 2023. He had written accepting the appointment before a new twist following the visit of Bill Gates to Nigeria.
While accepting the appointment, Dr. Pate had said; “It will be my privilege to lead Gavi and continue to support countries to scale up critical routine immunisation programmes, reach more zero-dose children, expand access to new vaccines, transform primary health care systems, and help fight outbreaks and future pandemics.”
The visit of Bill Gates has set tongues wagging as close political allies of the president are not comfortable with the afterthought decision by Dr. Pate to decline the multi-billion dollars GAVI appointment for a ministerial appointment.
Some of the close aides to President Tinubu are of the view that the influence by persons such as Bill Gates is akin to neo-colonialism just as they believe that the loyalty of such an appointee will not be to the country but to the person that influence his appointment and may endanger the country’s interests.
Another source said; “Why would someone that blocked other qualified Nigerians from the same GAVI position he is now rejecting for a ministerial slot be considered ahead of other equally qualified Nigerians. We have faithful party members that worked so hard for the victory of the President who were pencilled down for the job.
“If party loyalty is not rewarded, it would make it difficult to get people to willingly support and work so hard for the party and its candidates in future.
“More importantly, is the fact that the ‘Renewed Hope Health Agenda’ requires someone that not only has the technical know-how, but has deep knowledge of political-economy and undercurrents of the Nigerian health sector. This is what has been missing,” he stressed.
Similarly, this was another source said that former governor of Kano State, Dr. Umar Abdullahi Ganduje, Chief Nyesom Wike, Femi Fani-Kayode and Festus Keyamo have increased the level of their lobby for ministerial slots.
It was gathered that of the four, Chief Wike’s nomination seems to be generating ripples among some key presidency staff who are concerned about trust and loyalty, and are of the view that the recalcitrant nature of the former Rivers State governor may not be ideal for the type of administration that President Tinubu would want to run.
While admitting that the anti-party activities of Wike worked in favour of President Tinubu and the APC at the federal level, the source said that deep within every committed politician, it was clear that such attitude is not one that should in any way be encouraged.
According to the source; ‘’Wike can be compensated by making him to nominate his key allies to be appointed but not him taking such a position. His erratic disposition cannot be easily gauged or determined and that is dangerous for the administration’’.
As the days go by, some of the close aides of the President are believed to be pulling the strings to ensure that he (Tinubu) keeps to his words in compensating those that worked so hard for the victory of the APC.
President Tinubu had assured saying; “I will definitely reward people that have been with me for years and have shown loyalty at all times”.
The close aides are concerned what the President would tell Nigerians if he was asked the reward of loyalty, against the backdrop of those that worked so hard for his and that of the APC victory at the polls.
▪︎ Additional report by Forefront Magazine.