Nigerian business leader and philanthropist Sir Emeka Offor announced a $1 million gift to The Rotary Foundation for polio eradication efforts at the Rotary Convention in Sydney.
Sir Emeka, who is executive vice chair of the Chrome Group, has made contributions to Rotary's campaign to rid the world of this deadly disease totaling more than $3.1 million, including a $1 million gift he announced at the 2013 convention. He told the attendees at the third plenary session on Tuesday that his commitment to ending polio is a personal one.
"Scores of my friends and classmates fell victim to this dreaded disease," said Sir Emeka, a member of the Rotary Club of Awka GRA who serves as Rotary's PolioPlus ambassador in Nigeria. "As a young man I vowed that I would someday do something significant to end polio in Nigeria."
Sir Emeka told the crowd he recently opened a PolioPlus Ambassador's Office, at no cost to Rotary, in Abuja. The office serves as a hub for his ambassadorial activities and supports the work of the Nigeria PolioPlus Committee.
Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are the only countries where polio has never been stopped.
Despite tremendous progress — only two documented cases of polio reported in the last 12 months — Offor says the country still faces unprecedented insecurity and inaccessibility in a number of northern states.
"The Nigerian government, now supported by the international community, is doing all that it can to eliminate the widespread violence, abductions, and terrorism," he says. "Peace would facilitate polio eradication, but we cannot sit by and wait until that time comes. We must do what we can to find ways to end polio now."
Surprise of a lifetime for polio survivors
On his way to Sydney, he stopped in London on Friday to attend an End Polio Now celebration held by District 1130. He was introduced to Gautam Lewis, Anne Wafula Strike, and Manoj Soma, all polio survivors, who told him their stories of overcoming their disabilities. Impressed and moved by what he heard, Sir Emeka abruptly asked them to join him in Sydney for the Rotary Convention.
Within 12 hours, all three were on a plane bound for the Harbour City. "It's very rare when doors like this open. And when they do you should just go right through it," said Lewis, a pilot, entertainment manager, and founder of Freedom in the Air, a nonprofit organization that makes flying more accessible for young people with disabilities. "For Sir Emeka, actions speak louder than words. He delivers on what he says. And his commitment to polio eradication is demonstrated by not only bringing us here, but his announcement of the gift to Rotary. Today he proved that he's committed for the long term."