Salma Anas-Kolo is a former Borno State commissioner for health between 2011 and 2015. She served as commissioner during Governor Kashim Shettima’s first term, a time when Boko-Haram insurgency was at its peak.
With tens of thousands of deaths from the insurgency and many residents suffering from physical and psychological trauma, Mrs Anas-Kolo’s used her office to establish rehabilitation centres that provided trauma management and psycho-social support as well as provide counselling for women and girls negatively affected by insurgency.
“What we did was that, immediately we set up for an emergency response team and the humanitarian desk within the ministry of health”, the former commissioner who is also a public health expert told PREMIUM TIMES in a recent interview.
Out of passion for community development, Mrs Anas -Kolo would later this year, declare to run for a Senate seat in Southern Borno.
About a month ago, she picked up her ‘expression of interest’ and ‘declaration of interest form’ at the ruling All Progressives Party Congress (APC) Secretariat in Abuja.
On Tuesday her name came up among four candidates cleared to battle for the ruling party’s ticket for Borno South Senatorial seat. Others are Sanda Garba; Musa Balla and Ali Ndume,who currently occupies the seat.
As a starter, Mrs Anas-Kolo picked a rather tough debut battle as she seeks to upstage Mr Ndume who has been in the political scene for more than a decade with a wealth of experience and influence.
There are rumors that the APC is hatching underground moves to make Mr Ndume the sole candidate of the party in the contest.
However, if she eventually beats the odds and emerges victorious in the party primaries scheduled Wednesday and subsequently the general elections, the former health commissioner will be the first female to represent Southern Borno in the Senate.
Born on March 23, 1966, Mrs Anas -Kolo’s penchant for humanitarian and community development work is not far-fetched.
Her father, Ibrahim Anas, is a retired police officer from Silumthla ward of Biu Local Government Area. He joined politics in 1977 after retirement. He served as chairman of Biu LGA and later became the deputy governor of Borno State from 1979 to 1983.
He thereafter, served on the boards of several government agencies and parastatals, until his demise on the 8th of December 2008.
Young Salma was raised in Maiduguri, where she completed her primary education at Shehu Garbai Primary School in 1978. Five years later, she acquired her O’ level certificate from Government Girl’s College Maidugri.
She received a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at the University of Maidugri in 1978.
She later got married to her heartthrob, Hashim Muhammad Kolo, who retired from the Nigerian Air force with the rank of Air Commodore in 2013. They both had five kids.
After several years of public service with an eye-catching CV, Mrs Anas-Kolo was appointed commissioner for health in Borno State between 2011 and 2015. Before then, the internationally renowned public health expert had worked at various levels and locations in Nigeria and around the world for the United Nations System, through such agencies as United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mrs Anas-Kolo most recently served as National Team Leader (Country Director) for the Nigeria Maternal Newborn and Child Health, a national programme supported by the government of the United Kingdom.
She was also the Director/Head Special Projects & National Coordinator Health Sector Humanitarian Crisis Response of the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria.
Having acquired much knowledge, skills and field experience in community development, Mrs Anas-Kolo, like her father, decided to run for political office, due to the gap she saw between government and her people in Southern Borno.
The first phase of her rough road to the Senate seat has already begun. She is pitched against three tough aspirants including Mr Ndume in the APC party primaries.
Mr Ndume is a staunch Buharist in the Senate and a former majority leader. He has been in the National Assembly since 2003.
The former health commissioner did not hesitate to voice the task ahead as a woman challenging Mr Ndume.
“I think he (Ndume) is my leader, there is no doubt about that. He is currently sitting on the chair and he has been there for 8 years. In the Senate, he is going to complete his eight years and he was also in the House of Reps for eight years so that makes it 16 years.
“I have a lot of respect for him and he has played his role but the space is large and we make changes for progress. So there is need for us to also move forward because when someone has been in a position for a long time and gained lots of experience, he should be able to move on.
“With all the experience I have gathered, I think Borno state is not where it should be. In fact we have gone almost 50 years backwards in terms of development.”
She said if given the opportunity, she would address three cardinal areas of development: education; girl child education; and the health sector.
Like most women with political ambitions, Mrs Anas-Kolo complained about how the Nigerian party structure is skewed against women.
“At the party primary level, gender and money is used to marginalise women. The representation of women is very poor, in the political parties. If you take five delegate from each ward, it’s only one woman out of five.
“I need the men to support me. I am pleading with them to be fair, based on the lessons they have learned in the past. They should see me as a progressive individual that is trying to help her people.”
2014 – Rotary International Award for recognition as the best performing Commissioner of Health in efforts towards immunisation activities in hard to reach communities of conflicts in Borno State.
2013: Best Commissioner of the Year in the North East by the National Union of Journalist, Nigeria.
2013 – Bill and Melinda Gates Award as Best performing State in the North East on Polio Eradication efforts (during the period I served as Commissioner of Health in Borno
2012: Borno State Ranked as the third in Nigeria by Hefron as making efforts towards improving Maternal Health in the Nigeria (period served as Commissioner of Health.
1997 – Best graduant; National Postgraduate Medical College, Nigeria.
1997 – Best graduant; of the Faculty of Public Health, National Postgraduate
Medical College, Nigeria.
1989 – Best Graduating student in Pediatrics, University of Maiduguri,
Borno State, Nigeria.
(This Project is powered by Centre for Development and Democracy (CDD) with support from Ford Foundation. The initiative explores the personal life, contribution to humanity, strength and political ambition of female politicians in Nigeria ahead of the 2019 general elections).
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