Yadoma Bukar Mandara, 24, is the youngest of the 492 delegates to the ongoing National Conference in Abuja.
She is the last daughter of the late philanthropist and politician, Bukar Umaru Mandara, who was the Zanna Dujima of Borno.
The 2011 graduate of Environmental Biology from the University of Maiduguri tells PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete about her experience at the Confab.
PT: Are you a member of the family of the famous Bukar Mandara in Borno State?
Yadoma: I’m his last born.
PT: How old are you?
Yadoma: I’m 24.
PT: What do you do?
Yadoma: I work for the public service and have a foundation that caters for widows and orphans in Borno State.
PT: Is it on the platform you came to the National Conference?
Yadoma: I came on the platform of “Other Youth Organisations.”
PT: How did you get nominated into the Conference? Was it the government that called you up or did you apply for a seat?
Yadoma: Someone I had never met was asked to nominate a youth from the North East and he felt I can represent the youth. He nominated me and others and I eventually got picked; that is how I came here.
PT: What are the criteria that suggestion was based? I mean what did the person see in you?
Yadoma: I don’t know what the person saw in me, maybe he had been reading my write ups. However, I believe that my drive and passion for the country is what made him nominate me.
PT: What are your antecedents? I mean you must have done some things that made that person to notice you and nominate you.
Yadoma: Not really! Actually, I always air my opinion. I am especially a writer. I am a blogger. I write about politics although I am not really interested in going into politics. I have particular interest in the way politics is going on in the country. I write my opinion, on my social media space and blog. I also participated in campaigns like ‘Occupy Nigeria.’ When I see injustice I try to raise my voice against it. I also won a state and National award after my service – NYSC/CBN venture prize.
PT: What is your discipline?
Yadoma: I studied Environmental Biology.
PT: You have been here for about four months. You spoke yesterday (during the plenary session) and you were thanking some of these delegates for taking you like a daughter. Were you at any point intimidated when you came and saw some of these people old enough to be your grandparents as they are 80 and 70 years etc?
Yadoma: Actually when I was about to come I totally assume or probably say presumed that I was going to have obstacles with the elderly people, people with pedigree; the who is who; crème de la crème of Nigeria. But coming here, sitting on my right is a retired colonel, and on my left is a chief who is about 70 or thereabout. They carried me along like a colleague and a daughter to them, they give me advice at some point, (and) we flow. The other delegates, most of them have given me encouragement, supporting me. I wasn’t expecting that initially when I came. But my view point or opinion changed and I blended with the Conference. Things are going the way I expected it to go, not really the way I assumed it would have gone.
PT: Would you say you are satisfied with the proceedings so far?
Yadoma:So far so good! Some of them have given me the support I require, for example the leadership of the Conference. I registered my name to speak on most of the reports of the committees and they have called upon me to speak. So, I wouldn’t say as a youth I was marginalised. As a person, I was given the maximum support I needed as the youngest among them.
PT: Do you think the youth in this conference have made any mark or impact so far?
Yadoma: We have made some recommendations and contributions which if implemented, will move the country forward, especially in terms of employment, education, participation of youth in politics, among other things. I believe the 18 of us who are here representing about 70 million Nigerian youth are like a minority representing the majority – 3.5%. It will be hard for us to push the view point of the entirety of the youth, but at least we have tried our best to push some of the critical problems bothering the youth in Nigeria.
PT: Some elderly people believe the youth are not prepared to take over the leadership of this nation considering the many vices they are into. Do you share this view?
Yadoma: Young people are the future of our country. They will have to inherit the nation’s leadership at some point. That is a generational and biological fact. Yes, some young people might be involved in vices, but they reflect the problems of our society. I think when society offers the young the opportunities to affect the country in a positive manner; they will learn to be ever more responsible. So it is about both the young and the old, building a good country together.
PT: You were the deputy chairman of a Committee. What kind of treatment did you get from your members who were apparently older than you?
Yadoma: I was deputy chairman of the Committee on Environment. I was deputy to Senator Florence Ita-Giwa. When we started committee work, Mrs. Ita-Giwa asked me what I studied, I told her Environmental Biology and she said that is very nice, I will help her a lot in the proceedings of the Committee. And during my first introduction to the committee members who by far are older than me I would say the only one closer to my age was about 20 years older than myself. I told them I don’t know why I was nominated to be the deputy chairman. In terms of intellect or age they are by far wiser than me and I hope they will give me the opportunity to learn and grow. They said leadership is not by age or what you know. They gave me the maximum cooperation I needed and it was a success.
PT: You didn’t lobby for the position?
Yadoma: I never lobbied for anything in this Conference.
PT: So with your discipline did you make any concrete contribution to the recommendations of the committee?
Yadoma: Yes of course. There are so many contributions I made which if implemented will create employment for the youth which is the constituency I represent. Even though I am an environmentalist I focused on bettering the environment whilst creating jobs. There are so many environmental programme that when implemented will improve the lives of Nigerians and create employment.
PT: Did you have the time to attend nocturnal meetings called by delegates?
Yadoma: I attended all meetings that were necessary for the success of the Conference.
PT: There is a matter on ground now and that is the issue of derivation fund. What is your take on this?
Yadoma: My take is simple. When I made my presentation I said ‘whatever we do we have to think of the entirety of Nigeria first before our communities or the regions we represent.’ And if what we are trying to push is in the interest of our region and to the detriment of the entirety of Nigeria then that thing is not worthwhile. So the issue of derivation, to me as a person, I will say 13% is enough. And my major concern with the Derivation is that it doesn’t benefit the community people. At the committee level (Environment), we suggested some recommendations on the issue of degradation of the environment.
The host communities and the people of the communities are still suffering despite the derivation that is in place. So how can we use those monies to touch the lives of the common man, not just the elites that are asking for the derivation? Here we are talking about how we will share the money and how we can divide the money amongst us but nobody is mentioning these local people. Though a few delegates suggested that some part of this derivation money should go to the local communities where the major problem is and I agree with them. There was a suggestion that there should be a fund for the cleansing up of the Niger Delta which I am in agreement with. There is need to clean up the environment.
The issue I have with the derivation money is that if it is increased there is no way it can touch the life of the average local person who is greatly affected by the pollution. So if there is a way we can have a fund for the cleansing of the Niger Delta and for the empowerment of those people suffering it will be appropriate; even though we have the NDDC and other funds, yet the locals are still suffering.
PT: The position appears to be that of the northerners. Is it because you are northerner?
Yadoma:No, I have never projected myself as a northerner here in this Conference. I have never for once mentioned where I am from. Even during the debate on the report of the Committee on National Security, people were saying nobody from Borno State was called to talk. And I spoke on that day and even the deputy chairman was telling them that Ms. Mandara spoke. But some of them don’t even know where I am from. They don’t know if I am from the north or the south, this position is a common position for any right thinking Nigerian. And I believe it’s high time we started to think of developing and creating more ways to generate revenue and stop relying on the oil which is a wasting resource. So it is not about the north or south. It is about truth wherever it lies.
PT: During the conference did you see some of your delegate colleagues as being selfish in their contributions to the debate on the president’s speech and the reports of the committees?
Yadoma: Of course! In a conference of about 492 people you should expect some people to be selfish or push their interest first before the interest of the country. Of course some people are being selfish, biased and sentimental in their contributions.
PT: Were you disappointed?
Yadoma: I’m very much disappointed as a Nigerian but I will say I am glad I came here. If not for anything, I have learnt the political structure of Nigeria and the way things are and why this country is having serious issues in moving forward. I am disappointed as a young person. I told them when I stood up to speak the other day that I was a bit disappointed the way things were going. One of them was asking me why I was disappointed but I was so down and depressed that day that I couldn’t continue. There were points I broke.
PT: How would you have wished they made their contributions?
Yadoma: I wished everybody was thinking Nigeria first before a personal agenda or personal viewpoint. If anything is for Nigeria then it should be for the entirety of Nigeria. That is how I expected people to be. But of course, like I said earlier, you can’t have a cluster of people from different geo-political zones and expect all of them to be objective in their different contributions.
PT: It has been established that there are so many old people here. Do you agree with what some of them said that they contributed to the problems of Nigeria and should also solve them?
Yadoma: Of course, most of them contributed to the problems of this country. I had a chat with a chief and he said he is happy with my contributions in the Conference and told me that most of them caused these problems and that this is their last chance to fix the problems they have caused. They have failed us. They messed things up and that is why this country is in a serious problem.
Most of them caused the problems and they are part and parcel of the problems of this country. Seriously, I do not know how you ask someone that caused a problem to solve the problem. But this is our way in Nigeria sometimes. But there are far-reaching recommendations that we made even though there are some people that caused the problems anyway. We hope the implementation will take effect.
PT: Will you be disappointed if the report of this Conference is treated like the previous ones?
Yadoma: Of course I won’t be happy. Four months of hard work, and brain exhaustion, coming here in the morning and leaving late in the evening, sometimes night, it will be terrible if these recommendations are thrown away or kept in the archive. I will be really saddened.
PT: Back to your family – what was the reaction of your family when he got to know about your nomination into the Conference?
Yadoma: Initially when I got nominated I actually felt a little bit agitated, especially because of my perception of the conference, and the criticism with some saying ‘it won’t work or the same old people, the same old talk-shop in Nigeria.’ I was a bit indifferent about coming here. At some point I thought I will not even come. So, people encouraged me to come, especially my family as most of them said ‘it is part of experience, it is part of learning and no learning process is a waste of time.’ They gave me that encouragement. I got their support.
PT: After this Conference what next?
Yadoma: There are many options I am exploring and I will make up my mind after taking a break.
PT: It appears Yadoma is not thinking about marriage now?
Yadoma: Marriage will come when the time comes.
PT: You have not found Mr. Right?
Yadoma: Well, I won’t say that. I don’t know, but for now……
PT: But there is somebody in your life?
Yadoma: (laugh). We’re going too private.
PT: Are you earning your first million at this Conference?
Yadoma: It might interest you to know that I have earned some money before I came to this Conference. It is not at this Conference that I am first earning what you have called my first millions. I have properties (and) I have investments which earned me some money. We have a family business that earns a whole lot. So this conference is like additional token and that is why I decided to start up a foundation with the Conference money to touch the lives of Nigerians.
I believe this money given to us is the money of Nigerians and so how do I give it back to them? I then decided to set up this foundation for educating the girl child, empowering women and orphans, training women on some skills and how to start up their businesses and all that.
PT: You mean you are not going to spend this money for yourself.
Yadoma: Most of it will go for my foundation and I have already started some little community development works.