David-West at 70: Profile of an enigma

THE  revered statesman and former President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” The renowned American author, Mark Twain, in yet another moment of reflection, said: “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” These words by two great personalities succinctly capture the kind of life Engineer Mayne David-West has led.  An immensely accomplished and brilliant individual, he is self-effacing, courteous, selfless and kind to a fault. Added to these are a great sense of humour and penchant for philanthropy. And as he turned 70 on Saturday, July 13, 2019, his life is a fitting study of how to lead a good life for the younger generation of Nigerians.

Born on July 13, 1949 to the noble, erudite and amiable David-West family of Buguma, Rivers State, the young Mayne had an early childhood that was focused. As a child of good pedigree, without a given, his approach to life was robust and responsive. It was no surprise therefore that he waltzed through early schools a whiz kid, earning colourful grades. At the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he also graduated in 1977 with honours Civil Engineering. It was a foretaste of what was to come. For his National Youth Service, David-West served fatherland in Akure, at the Ondo State Housing Co-operation. He joined the services of Etteh Aro and Partners in 1978. And with diligence and commitment, by 1980, he has risen from a pupil engineer to a resident engineer/manager and head of the Port Harcourt Branch of the firm. So outstanding was he that by 1986, he had risen to become a partner. In 1987, David-West became a Principal of Pearl Consultants, an offshoot of Etteh Aro & Partners. It was the peak of his career.

An active civil engineering practitioner, David-West has to his credit over 200 exciting engineering projects. Engineering, for him, is a medium to express oneself, which perhaps explains why he brings so much creativity and art to engineering designs, giving them not just function but form like the ‘renaissance engineer’.  Indeed, David-West’s genius resonates in his art. He has designed some of the most creative and awe-inspiring engineering projects ever contemplated in the world. For instance, he designed the 706km-long East-West Coastal Road (Calabar–Lagos) straddling over 706km on the main and 106km of spurs with 180 No. bridges, including three iconic bridges. The first is a suspension bridge over Bonny River Crossing, christened,‘Water Diamond of Grand Bonny.’ The suspension bridge has a main clear span of 1.5km and side spans of 0.65km, each with 1.5km long approach concrete viaducts on either side.  It will be the 5th longest span in the world for a suspension bridge but the longest of its type on the African Continent.

The second is a cable-stayed bridge over Escravos River Crossing, ‘Escravos Marvel.’ The overall length of the Escravos River Crossing is 5.2km, comprising of a cable-stayed bridge with a clear main span of 0.70km, two side spans of 0.350km and two 1.9km long approach viaducts each. It will be the 8th longest span in the world for a cable-stayed bridge and the longest on the African continent. The third is a cable-stayed bridge over Forcados River Crossing, named ‘Wondrous Forcados.’ The overall length of the Forcados is 3.48km, comprising of a Cable-stayed bridge with a clear main span of 0.350km and side span of 0.215km connected to 1.35km long approaches. This project was described internationally as one of the most ambitious and sophisticated highway engineering designs ever undertaken in the World.

For his feats in the field of engineering, David-West has been duly honoured and recognised with several awards and fellowships. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (FNIStructE), Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (FNICE), and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Highway Engineers (FNIHE). He is also a Member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers (MIABSE), Member of the International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research (MIAHR) and is on the register of Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN).  Some of the awards he has received include the NICE Distinguished Award for commitment to professional excellence in 2011 Civil Engineering Practice in Nigeria, NICE Meritorious Service Award for contributions to the advancement of civil engineering profession in Nigeria and the NIHE Merit Award in recognition of meritorious and committed service for 2014. David-West is married to the amiable and equally erudite Juliet Ogedi David-West nee Nzeribe. And their over 40 years old union is blessed with four children – Sylvia, Juliet, Tavis and Brian. This is wishing him more years of fruitful service to his fatherland and humanity in general.

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