A former Minister of Health in Nigeria, and a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Chan School of Public health, Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, has been edged out from the Global Fund race for a new executive director because Washington is uncomfortable with tweets he shared that cast President Donald Trump as “racist,” The Whistler has learnt.
Pate was already shortlisted alongside two others; Subhanu Saxena, a drug executive who in August 2016 stepped down as chief executive of Cipla, a major Indian pharmaceutical company, and Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a former prime minister of New Zealand – but she dropped out of the race well before the Board Retreat.
It was learnt that when the shortlist was leaked, the New York Times wrote an article which said that the Fund’s largest donor, the U.S. “While all might have been considered excellent candidates for the job in earlier years, global health officials are worried that their backgrounds could push the Trump administration away from historical commitments to the Fund.” (The United States has always donated a third of the Global Fund’s budget and is by far its greatest source of support.)
In the article by Donald McNeil, it was said that Dr Pate has used Twitter posts to call Mr. Trump a fascist, saying he has much in common with ISIS for his anti-Muslim stance. (Later in the same article, McNeil explained that Dr Pate did not say these things about Mr Trump directly. Rather, he re-tweeted tweets from other people saying these things.)
However, Norbert Hauser, the Chair of the Board in the press statement announcing the extension of the search said; “The Board is committed to a process that adheres to the highest possible standards, and is fair, transparent, merit-based, and conducted with due diligence and professionalism.”
It went on to say: “Due to issues encountered in the recruitment process, the Board felt they were unable to bring the process to conclusion. While expressing its complete support for the work of the Nominations Committee, the Board decided to restart the process.
“The Board’s overarching priority is to continue looking for a new Executive Director to provide visionary leadership and implement an ambitious new strategy to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.”
Reacting to development in an email, Pate stated that he has no plans to reapply for the job, noting that he was told the process was merit based and that he was the first-ranked candidate in the report.
“The Global Fund Board’s decision is unfair and unjustified,” Pate wrote. He charges that during the vetting process, “several efforts were made to question my candidacy on the basis that I was a Muslim, or that I am of Nigerian origin,” which he complained “smacks heavily of racism and Islamophobia that is now finding its roots in a respectable Global Health partnership of the Global Fund.”
It is “sad to see the Global Fund Board lacking the courage to stand up against discrimination,” Pate wrote.