Let’s Make History!

alt This is me when I was six months old, less than a year later my left leg was paralysed by Polio

A question I used to get asked a lot was, "what do you think your life would've been like if you hadn't contracted polio?" It's a strange question and also an impossible one to answer. I guess the subtext behind the question is "do you wish you were able-bodied and never caught polio?". Its a tantalizing thought, but not one that I worry about much these days. When I was younger I used to dream about an alternate world where I was a great able-bodied sports man playing football for West Ham (the way they're playing at the moment I could probably get into their first team right now).

The truth is though, I am one of the lucky ones. My parents, in their infinite wisdom, used life savings and borrowed money from family so we could move from Lagos Nigeria to Plaistow East London. A decision that I think had an even bigger impact on my life chances than catching polio did.

alt

I went back to Nigeria in 2013 to make a documentary for Channel 4 called "Ade Adepitan Journey of my Lifetime" The idea was to find out why Polio was still prevalent in one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. I was also there to see what my life might've been like if my parents had decided to stay in Lagos. This is the point where I was thinking of bombarding you with a load of stats about numbers of people infected with polio and infant mortality rates for children with polio and other disabilities. There are websites which can do that far better than me this is one of them:

https://www.rotarygbi.org/world-polio-day-olympic-park/.

My time in Nigeria was eye-opening, I knew life for disabled children in Africa was tough but it's not until you visit the polio victims living on the streets that it really hits home. I met a group of young men who slept under a flyover in Lagos. They were funny, intelligent and industrious selling charge-cards which contain credit for mobile phones and trying to set up their own Tuk-Tuk business with the money they earned. However most of them were illiterate because schools didn't have the resources to take them on. None of them could afford to rent a place to live, most of them had left home so as not to be a burden on their families. They traveled around on makeshift skateboards, basically old bits of wood with wheels attached to the bottom using their hands which were protected by wearing flip flops.My chair was like a Rolls Royce to them, something they could only dream of owning. This could've been me if it wasn't for my mum and dad.

Ade Adepitan: Journey of My Lifetime | A New Paralympic Sport? | Channel 4 from JNM on Vimeo.

Right now we are at a crucial point in the fight to eradicate polio from our planet for good. We are so close. Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are the only countries where the virus is still endemic. In the last thirty years the numbers of cases of polio have dropped from 350 thousand a year to thirty seven cases in 2016, and just twelve so far in 2017 largely due to the work of Rotary international and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who have raised billions of dollars to help end polio.

alt This is a Polio protest march I helped to organise with Polio survivors in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria(taken from ”Ade Adepitan Journey of My Lifetime”)

At the moment it feels like there is so much chaos and disunity in our world. Wars, terrorism and natural disasters seem to be headline news daily. Well, the fight to end Polio is a chance for the human-race to come together and bring good news to our planet because this is one war we can and must win. It's astonishing to think that with all the technological advancements we've made, smallpox is the only disease that we have been able to wipe out completely.

Tuesday 24th of October is World Polio Day. between 10am and 11am I will be hosting a wheelchair basketball match in Trafalgar Square featuring politicians from all parties in the UK and some GB junior players to help raise awareness of the work the UK government is doing for the polio campaign. Rotary will also be planting 50,000 purple crocuses at Queen Elizabeth Olympic park as part of its #Purple4Polio campaign on the same day.

alt As well as planting crocuses, the fountains at the Olympic park will be illuminated in purple for #WorldPolioDay

Come down to Trafalgar Square it's gonna be a fun event and you get to watch MPs knock nine bells out of each other in wheelchairs. Basketball is of course a non-contact sport (yeah right!). At the same time you can join the campaign and help end Polio for good. If altruism is not your thing then bare this in mind, if we don't eradicate polio completely it's only a matter of time before this highly infectious, crippling, and potentially deadly disease returns to the UK. We can obliterate this virus within a few years if we make sure our leaders keep their commitment to the Polio campaign. Opportunities like this don't come around often but together we can end polio for good, making the world a better place for future generations all over planet, and what a legacy that would be.

This is a short interview I did for the @OneLastPush campaign