Tinubu’s Cabinet: The Top 10 Round Pegs in Round Holes – MUHAMMAD ALI PATE

MUHAMMAD ALI PATE – (Minister of Health and Social Welfare)

Muhammad Ali Pate has lived all his life in the medical world: as a medical student; teacher and Professor of public health; medical entrepreneur, administrator and policy maker in public and private health institutions in Nigeria and abroad. These have made him an authority in the theory, practice and administration of medicine and health.

Before he was appointed Minister of Health and Social Welfare by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in August 2023, he had once served as Minister of State in the same ministry. Thus, his ministerial appointment was like a promotion to the pinnacle of an illustrious career in the medical world – another good example of President Tinubu’s ability to fix round pegs in round holes.

Professor Pate’s health ministry has responsibility for monitoring and evaluation of programmes, projects and plans implementation in Nigeria’s health sector. It serves as secretariat to the National Council on Health and conducts research into the sectors over which the ministry has jurisdiction in collaboration with other departments and agencies, institutions and parastatals.

The new minister who is a Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard University has already hit the ground running as he is back on a familiar turf.

Muhammad Ali Pate was born on September 6, 1968 in Misau Local Government Area of Bauchi State. He was the first in his family to complete a secondary school education.

Pate graduated from high school and proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Medical School in Kaduna State. Upon graduation from ABU, he moved to Gambia where he worked in rural hospitals for a few years. He was then a fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center in the United States. He is an American Board-Certified MD in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, with an MBA (Health Sector Concentration) from Duke University, USA. Prior to this, he had studied at the University College, London. He also has a Masters in Health System Management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK.

 Pate had an extensive career spanning over 10 years at the World Bank in Washington DC and held several senior positions including Senior Health Specialist and Human Development Sector Coordinator for the East Asia/Pacific Region and Senior Health Specialist for the African Region. At the World Bank Group, he served as the Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF). While at the World Bank, a major project led by Pate was the far-reaching health sector reform programmes in Africa, East Asia and other regions of the World Bank. Of note is his initiation of landmark Public Private Partnership to replace a National Referral Hospital in Lesotho, Africa.

Back in Nigeria, Pate was appointed as Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in 2008. His commendable role in that position paved the way for his appointment as Minister of State for Health by President Goodluck Jonathan. He, however, resigned on July 24, 2013 to take up the position of Professor in Duke University’s Global Health Institute, USA. While in that institution, he served as the Chief Executive Officer of Big Win Philanthropy and an adjunct Professor of Global Health.

In 2021, Pate returned to Harvard University as a Julio Frenk Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Two years later, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which works to provide vaccines in low-income countries.

Back again in Nigeria, Pate contested the Bauchi State Governorship election as the candidate of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in Bauchi State, after losing his bid for the ticket under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 Pate is a recepient of the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).