A Salute To An Icon, Mayne David-West, Sr. At 70

By George Kerley

Mayne David-West, Sr. is quite simply a great man. I do not refer to his eminence as a decorated engineer. I speak of the person. It is his simplicity which is the essential mark of greatness.

Engr, Mayne David-West, Sr. celebrated his 70th Birthday on Saturday, July 13.

He did not develop it, he always possessed it. When he was much younger, he was in considerable measure the man he was to become: relaxed, considerate, balanced, modest, unostentatiously secure. Not one who seeks to be flaunted as an ‘intellectual’, he is more than intelligent. The virtues named, in a man of such vast array of gifts, are rare. It is a miracle when complexities of attributes resolve themselves into a strikingly simple consistency.

I have known Engineer Mayne David-West for just about over ten years. We met at the front of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja one fine morning. He was in the company of a younger brother of mine, Ross, a Geographical Information Systems Consultant and Knowledge worker who happened to a member of core technical team. They were in Abuja, the Federal Capital to defend their work on the Niger Delta Coastal Road. At the time, I was a member of a five-man team whose mandate was to develop a draft work plan for the newly put together Presidential Amnesty Committee. A quick introduction followed and they were off to their assignment.

The friendship that ensued has never been clouded by a single misunderstanding, nor has it grown stale or perfunctory. One reason for this is that Engineer Mayne David-West has always been interesting – because he is always totally aware.

Strong feelings stir within him, but there is little evidence of this on the surface. He is always outwardly calm, though never cold. His approach to people is always unfailingly receptive, friendly, wherever helpful (and polite without regard to the other’s place or position. Nor have I known anyone who could take advantage of him. He always understands the situation in which he finds himself.

He is always just and stands in the exactly fitting relationship to each of his own experiences. He instinctively avoids all intemperance. He never goes ‘overboard’. Sometimes he pretends surprise – that is his little joke – but the truth is, he is prepared for everything. His wisdom consists of having learned how to make himself ready for all contingencies.

With all of this, he is endowed with great humor. His sense of life is as full of it as it is of passion.

There is mystery in Mayne David-West, but no ambiguity. He says what he feels and means. He would have made a great diplomat (he is one, in fact) not because he ever prevaricates, but because he tells the truth – nothing more or less. He is not given to overstatement of any kind. Engineer Mayne David-West’s humility does not forgo a sense of his one merit.

Engineer Mayne David-West has always desired to express what is there. At the outset of his career, the Niger Delta and indeed Nigeria was hardly present in design and structural engineering, the field of engineering he has so dedicatedly practiced in more than forty years. He set out to ensure that his designs for the various engineering projects he was involved in manifested a strong Nigeria feel and presence. Among the salient aspects of his brand of design is the energy, rhythm and perhaps bluster.

To Engineer Mayne David-West, engineering is a medium of personal expression. Like the famed British-Iraqi Architect Zara Hadid, he brings creativity and art to his engineering designs, giving them not just function but form, like the ‘renaissance engineer’.

Some of his fascinating landmark projects speak to the artistic emphasis he gives to his brand and style of engineering design.

Take for instance the names of the three iconic bridges for the 706 km long East –West Coastal Road (Calabar – Lagos) straddling over 706 km on the main and 106km of spurs; The suspension bridge over Bonny River crossing which he christened “The Water Diamond of Grand Bonny”, The cable-stayed bridge over the Escravos River crossing christened “The Escravos Marvel” and the “The Wondrous Forcados”, the cable stayed bridge over the Forcados River.

The “Water Diamond of Grand Bonny” is designed to be the fifth longest span in the world for a suspension bridge but the longest of its type on the African continent.

The 5.2km “Escravos Marvel” is designed to be the eighth longest span in the world for a cable-stayed bridge and the longest on the African continent.

The “Wondrous Forcados” has an overall length of about 3.48 metres comprising of a cable-stayed bridge with a clear main span of 0.350km, a side span of 0.215km connected to 1.35km long approaches!

The East–West Coastal Road, Mayne David-West’s most ambitious and tasking design engineering project, is considered as one of the most sophisticated highway engineering designs ever undertaken in the World.

These are legacy design projects, within a flagship project, amongst others, for which the name Mayne David-West, Sr. with be etched into the history of infrastructure development in Niger Delta and the oil rich Niger Delta.

The secret and central control of Mayne David–West’s seventy years of successful living is thoughtfulness.

One recognizes it throughout everything he does: a person who reflects in tranquility within the hurly-burly, the melodrama of a fantastically extroverted society. Yet for all of the turbulence, turmoil and anger of our contemporary action, Mayne David-West holds to and reminds us of the basic truths of our conscience in proud, forthright and majestic annunciation.

Even in his most serious moments, Engineer Mayne David-West never loses the capacity to smile, to joke, even to “kid” within the boundaries of veracity.

A fellow of almost every Engineering Society or Institute in Nigeria, a great husband, a wonderful father, an exceptional, loyal and trusted friend, a faithful employee, a superb boss and an engaging leader, in Mayne David-West, we meet a whole man.

Happy Seventieth Birthday to an Icon and a Legend!

George Kerley Sowunari, a social commentator and communications strategist, wrote from Port Harcourt.