In a country with a craving for home-grown professionals, a few names stand out in every field. In the field of engineering, one can hardly find a name that rings louder than that of Mayne David-West. A fine gentleman and consummate professional, David-West is right up there with the brightest minds the country has ever produced.
A native of Buguma, in Rivers State, he has made his bones in his chosen profession and has far surpassed the highest level expected of a Nigerian in the field of engineering. He turned 70 on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
Born on July 13, 1949, to the noble David-West family in Rivers State, Mayne David-West enjoyed a quality upbringing, steeped in good pedigree. After showing much promise as a youngster, he went on to prove his pedigree in school, and in the world of engineering, where he has now undoubtedly conquered. The mark of the truly gifted in our world are the early signs of focus and excellence that they demonstrate along their respective journeys to greatness. As a young man, this illustrious son of Buguma Kingdom was not lacking in this area. His was a fated rise to the pinnacle of success.
After graduating with honours in Civil Engineering from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1977, the young David-West joined the esteemed engineering firm of Etteh Aro and Partners in 1978, as pupil engineer. It took him just two years before he was placed in charge of the operations of the Port Harcourt branch of the firm in 1980. From there, it was an unstoppable rise to the top. He rose to become partner by 1986, and, subsequently, principal of Pearl Consultants, an offshoot of the firm, in 1987. Since then, he has continued to shine, acquiring innumerable garlands till date.
Many engineering exploits have been credited to David-West’s ingenuity. He is responsible for over 200 landmark engineering projects, many of which have earned him international acclaim. His style of engineering is quite different. His designs are creative and innovative, with a clear and identifiable intention of fusing style with function to produce what could pass as works of art. In other words, there is an art to his science, and it has distinguished him in more ways than even he could have imagined while at the drawing board. His projects are pearls of wonder where they currently stand and the efficiency and quality of his designs continually put him in the front row of engineering consultants in the continent of Africa.
Some of his projects include the design of the 706km long East-West Coastal Road (Calabar-Lagos) with bridges, including three iconic engineering projects in the Niger Delta that have assumed their own identities, in testament to the perfect fusion of form and function – a David-West signature. One of those iconic projects, christened “Water Diamond of Grand Bonny,” is a suspension bridge over Bonny River Crossing that will boast the fifth longest span for a suspension bridge in the world and the longest in Africa.
Another of the three iconic projects, “Escravos Marvel,” is a cable-stayed bridge over Escravos River Crossing that will be the eighth longest span cable-stayed bridge in the world and longest in Africa. The last of the three icons, “Wondrous Forcados,” a cable-stayed bridge over the Forcados River Crossing, has been described internationally as one of the most ambitious highway designs in the world.
David-West is also responsible for the construction and design review of an 850m box girder bridge over River Forcados at Patani in Delta State between 2013 and 2015; the 127km-long Port Harcourt Ring Road Design, with the first-ever cable-stayed bridge in Nigeria of 300m clear span and 60m vertical clearance. He is among the leading engineers on the European Union-backed $22 million agreement for the feasibility, environmental, socio-economic and detailed engineering designs of the Abidjan-Lagos highway project signed by the Economic Community of West Africa and the African Development Bank in February 2019.
The stature of the man in engineering can be intimidating when one has not actually met him. From the accounts of his friends and associates, David-West is an affable engineering giant with a calm manner and respect for all that come in contact with him, both high and low. His intelligence is effortless, and, as it has been observed in many high achievers in history, he cultivates relationships and encourages others along the way to success.
The man is a known straight shooter who always speaks his mind. Surprisingly, even with this trait, he is still highly revered by those who know him. This, perhaps, stems, from his generosity of spirit and the charm that a lifetime of success has bestowed on him. His good qualities, in his work and in private life, truly speak for him. Younger people close to him are lucky and thankful for his example and influence in engineering and as a well rounded man. His priceless mentorship is well matched by his own humility and respect for his own mentors.
Engineering in Nigeria has particularly benefited from his active involvement in the field. He is a fellow of the main bodies of engineers in the country, including the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, Nigerian Institute of Highway Engineers (NIHE), the Academy of Engineering, Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers (NICE). He is on the register of Council for the Regulation of Engineering. The seasoned engineer is also a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers and the International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research.
His lectures and speeches in different fora are a treasure trove of insightful views and takes on the practice and future of engineering in the country. His contributions to the profession have earned him recognition, and he has been honoured by his peers many times. He was recipient of the NICE Meritorious Award for Contributions to the Advancement of Civil Engineering Profession in Nigeria in 2010, NICE Distinguished Award for Commitment to Professional Excellence in Civil Engineering Practice in Nigeria in 2011, the 2014 NIHE Merit Award in Recognition of Meritorious and Committed Service for Successful Achievement in Engineering Practice, and many more.
There are men in engineering and there are men of engineering. David-West is a man of engineering through and through, and his projects will live on in the annals of the profession as timeless masterpieces. Beyond his profession, he is a stellar Nigerian and a national icon. His contributions to the country are invaluable. Being such a treasure to engineering in Nigeria and a role model of immeasurable value to many aspiring young professionals, he deserves all the heartfelt greetings that were sent his way last Saturday on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
Indeed, there is no adequate way to celebrate greatness. The closest way is in the recognition of the impact that a great person has made on society. With a man who is used to recognition and high achievement, the problem is even further compounded. Perhaps, it may be best to express gratitude for David-West’s excellence, as a professional and as an unofficial ambassador of the country to the engineering world. Many hearty cheers to a real diamond of the Niger Delta and the marvel of engineering in Nigeria.