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From London to Lagos, the journey of a Nigerian biker against polio

From London to Lagos, the journey of a Nigerian biker against polio


Lagos (AFP) – The roar of motorcycles rumbles in the distance and the man everyone is waiting for is quickly surrounded by the crowd. His face dripping with sweat, Kunle Adeyanju finally cut contact after a 41-day journey across Africa, which went viral on social networks.

Leaving London on April 19, Kunle Adeyanju, 44, traveled more than 13,000 kilometers on a motorcycle and crossed thirteen countries, until his arrival on Sunday in Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, his country of origin.

The objective: to raise funds for the NGO Rotary International to support the fight against polio, a highly contagious disease, eradicated since 2020 on the African continent thanks to vaccination, but where it still threatens.

“I’m sleep deprived because I only slept 3 to 4 hours a night. But I’m proud of myself because I accomplished this challenge,” he says with AFP. drawn.

Escorted by many motorcyclists from the border with Benin, Kunle Adeyanju was welcomed by dozens of delirious supporters at the Rotary center of Ikeja, a district in the center of Lagos.

“As a member of Rotary, I am really very proud. He gave another vision of Africa”, insists Joy Daniel, 37, NGO flags in hand.

Because every day, the biker – “LionHeart” (“Coeur de lion”) on social networks – told the progress of his journey, gaining popularity at breakneck speed.

In his photos loved thousands of times, the same scenes of jubilation and mutual aid on the African continent are repeated, according to the pitfalls.

100,000 followers

Each time, in Togo, Benin, Ghana and Senegal for example, he poses all smiles alongside bikers, fans and local authorities with an “end polio” banner.

And this, even in countries deemed more dangerous such as Mali and Burkina Faso, plagued by jihadist insurgencies.

In the first for example, Kunle Adeyanju broke one of his rims.

Standing, “alone in the middle of the night”, not knowing “what to do”, Mr. Adeyanju says he went to a nearby village.

Kunle Adeyanju poses in front of the Rotary Club of Lagos, May 30, 2022
Kunle Adeyanju poses in front of the Rotary Club of Lagos, May 30, 2022 Benson Ibeabuchi AFP

“It was in the middle of the bush. I didn’t even speak the language. They could have gotten rid of me, but the villagers helped me. Humanity at its best!” he said.

Not like in the “hell” of Mauritania, where he says he was scammed out of hundreds of euros: “his worst experience”.

According to Kunle Adeyanju, his Twitter account had only 3 followers when it was created in December 2021. It now has nearly 100,000.

A craze that earned him the congratulations of the CEO of Twitter in person.

“Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey with the world on Twitter. Love it!” Parag Agrawal wrote in mid-May.

Kunle Adeyanju talks about his “completely crazy” popularity on the networks: “For me, the goal was simply to raise awareness about polio.”

irreversible paralysis

Since Nigeria officially eradicated the virus in 2020, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

“The fight for the eradication of polio in the world has been a fight that Rotary International has been waging for 20 years,” said Delight Sunday-Anicho, president of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi, a wealthy district of Lagos, who will step down in early July. to the famous biker.

“The disease still exists. We haven’t won this fight yet even though the disease is largely contained.”

Only a massive vaccination of children prevents infection and therefore transmission, which has made it possible to virtually eradicate the wild forms. The vaccine was created in the 1950s but remained out of reach of poor countries in Asia and Africa until significant mobilization in recent decades.

Kunle Adeyanju in Lagos on May 30, 2022
Kunle Adeyanju in Lagos on May 30, 2022 Benson Ibeabuchi AFP

Former logistics operator at Shell in Nigeria, Kunle Adeyanju says he embarked on the adventure at his own expense (19,000 euros) in memory of “a childhood friend”, suffering from the disease.

“We were doing sports but he couldn’t move. So he was watching us”.

Polio causes irreversible paralysis and even death. And as long as it circulates endemic in certain countries, millions of children remain at risk throughout the world.

With this trip, Kunle Adeyanju – who has already climbed Kilimanjaro twice – hopes to raise 20 million naira, or 45,000 euros, for Rotary.

The following ? Go by bike to Ghana, go to Israel on a motorbike or his dream: to climb Everest.



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