It was a few days to the opening of the National Conference, 2014, that I first saw a reference to Yadoma Bukar Mandara. Nasir El-Rufai had written a short piece for our National Collective internet group that he probably would only like to help manage the funds that would accrue to Yadoma from the National Conference, because she was going to be the youngest participant at the age of 23.
That kind of got filed away in my memory. And two weeks into the Conference, I met her for the first time at lunch. She was in the company of a group of younger members of the Conference, including Hassan Rilwan, who as Publisher of SARDAUNA magazine, has become a notable young Northern Nigerian entrepreneur, with interest in many other areas of business and is also quite articulate and personable. We had spoken and when she told me her name, I connected the face and person to the short piece from Nasir El-rufai.
She appeared to be shy, was respectful, wore a ready smile and had a tendency to bow slightly in respect to people who tried to greet or speak with her. One day, when I did not have a car, she even offered me a ride into town; it was one service which she readily gave to many delegates, especially the group of young people at the Conference.
In the weeks and months of the Conference, Yadoma Bukar Mandara has become one of the most popular delegates. This is largely because of her sense of responsibility which came to the fore so early and which seemed to have been readily harvested by the leadership of the Conference.
The young lady has been given various responsibilities which she has applied herself to with admirable dedication. The fact that she is the youngest delegate was noticed by all, and her surname was one that was readily connected with by many people who knew her father, the late Alhaji Bukar Mandara, a very colourful individual and certainly one of the most noticeable representatives of his generation in Borno and Northern Nigeria. He had built a remarkable network of relationships across Nigeria.
Alhaji Mandara used to be a regular visitor to my office, when I was Editor of DAILY TRUST, between 2002 and 2005. Yadoma is very fond of her father and tells whoever asked that she is the old man’s last child! There seemed to be an unspoken desire to be a true ambassador of her famous father and an urge not to fall below a standard that befitsher background. She ploughs into every assignment with a single-minded devotion, application, enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility which all who relate with her admire.
It is therefore no surprise that she is easily recognisable and is always in one group or other, or is being sought out for a conversation or is just greeted by all with a respect that reflects admiration for the way she carries herself!
When Committee work commenced, she was, not surprisingly, made the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee on the Environment. She had studied Environmental Biology at the University of Maiduguri, so her work in the Environment Committee fitted her background; but to be made a Deputy Chairperson of the Committee was an endorsement of her sense of responsibility and an opportunity to help further develop her leadership skills. By all indication, she applied herself to committee work with the same industry.
And when called upon to lay down the Committee’s report at the re-commencement of plenary, she shyly walked to the front of the conference, received a ringing endorsement in the deafening ovation which accompanied her.
It was vindication of the trust that the Conference leadership reposes in her, that she was also appointed member of a committee helping to find consensus on the divisive issue of Nigeria’s Land Use Act. Hajiya Aisha Ismail, who chairs the committee, spoke highly of Yadoma’s contribution to the work which the committee did. And to imagine that she turned 24 during the Conference!
As we come closer to the end of the Conference, I think that Yadoma Bukar Mandara is one of the standout individuals of the past few months. She is a representative of the best of Nigerian youth, helping to underscore the possibilities that Nigeria can tap into, if it gives young people the opportunity to learn practical leadership skills in the nation building process.
I have no doubts in my mind that this shy, unassuming and very respectful young lady has learnt incredible lessons about the complexities of Nigeria and the depths that we take our fault lines to amongst our elite groups. She would also have learnt consensus building and harvested friendships across regional, religious, gender, even demographic lines that will redound to her benefit in the future.
Yadoma Bukar Mandara is an expression of the future possibilities of Nigeria, being moulded in the social currents of the present. I think Nigeria will hear a lot about this young lady in the future. How proud her father, Alhaji Bukar Mandara would have been, to see his youngest daughter flower so early in life! And by the way, Yadoma has kept a running blog on the National Conference, since the commencement of the National Conference, 2014.