A crowd cheered Kunle Adeyanju as he turned off his motorbike engine after completing an arduous 41-day trip to raise funds to fight polio in his native Nigeria.
The 44-year-old departed London on April 19 and arrived in Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos on Sunday after slogging through more than 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) across 13 countries.
His aim was to raise funds for Rotary International’s fight against polio, which remains a threat in Africa despite being eradicated in 2020.
“I am sleep-deprived because I slept only three to four hours per night. But I feel proud because I accomplished this challenge,” Adeyanju told AFP just after he arrived, wiping sweat off his face.
Accompanied by a dozen bikers for the last stretch of the journey from Benin Republic, the group was welcomed by supporters in Ikeja, in central Lagos.
Adeyanju, called “Lion Heart” by fans, became popular by posting daily pictures with comments of his journey on social media.
At every stop along the way, he was greeted by jubilant supporters.
In Senegal, Ghana, and even in countries battling jihadist insurgencies like Mali and Burkina Faso, Adeyanju posed for selfies with fans and local officials, waving a banner saying “End Polio Now.”
He did face some challenges, like in Mali where one of his wheel rims broke.
Kunle Adeyanju (C) poses after arriving in Lagos following a 41 day trip from London, by motorbike, to raise funds and awareness for the End Polio campaign.
Kunle Adeyanju (C) poses after arriving in Lagos following a 41 day trip from London, by motorbike, to raise funds and awareness for the End Polio campaign. Benson Ibeabuchi AFP
“I was standing in the middle of the night, alone in a bush, not knowing what to do, without speaking the language,” he said, explaining he had to walk to the nearest village.
“I could have been disposed of but instead, they helped me. Humanity at its best!”
Not all of the challenges he faced were resolved as smoothly.
Mauritania was “hellish” he said, after he got robbed of hundreds of euros (dollars). “The worst experience,” he added.
With only three followers on Twitter a few months ago, the Nigerian national now has almost 100,000, catching the attention of the social platform’s CEO.
“Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey with the world on Twitter, and with our @TwitterGhana team. Love to see it #LondonToLagos,” said the tech boss Parag Agrawal.
Polio fight not over
Adeyanju said he embarked on the epic journey in memory of a friend who was affected by polio.
The former Shell employee self-funded his trip with 19,000 euros ($20,400) in savings, hoping to raise up to 20 million naira ($48 million) for Rotary International.
“Polio still exists,” said Delight Sunday-Anicho, who manages Rotary’s branch in Ikoyi, a wealthy neighbourhood in Lagos.
“We haven’t won the fight yet, even if we have largely contained it.”
Polio can cause life-long paralysis.
The virus is transmitted among humans through water or food that has been contaminated by faeces. There is no cure, but a cheap and highly effective vaccine has been available since the 1950s.
Indigenous polio was eradicated from Africa in 2020 after a decades-long vaccination campaign, which in Nigeria was marred by attacks by Boko Haram jihadists.
But the disease remains to be wiped out in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and this poses a threat to the unvaccinated people elsewhere.
Outbreaks have occurred this year in Malawi and Mozambique from a strain that had circulated in Pakistan. The authorities have engaged on a mass immunisation of youngsters.
Adeyanju is eyeing a possible cycling trip to Ghana or a bike ride to Israel to help raise more funds. And he has another dream: to climb Mount Everest.