Afeez Agoro Oladimeji was just like any other child while growing up until the age of 19 when he fell ill and soon started growing above the normal human height of any other person from his age group.
He continued to fall ill several times and consequently realized he was growing abnormally tall. His parents sought medical interventions for his strong condition but to no avail.
Today, at 44 years, Oladimeji is a sight to behold in Nigeria as he stands at 7 ft. 4 inches tall, which makes him unofficially the tallest man in the country and among the list of the tallest people in Africa.
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This would, however, come with many inconveniences, including a battle with rheumatism, restrictions on movement and, of course, a long delay in finding love.
Born in Sabo, Yaba in Lagos on December 13, 1975, Oladimeji is the youngest of three children who had his early education at St. Finbarr’s College before obtaining an Ordinary National Diploma (OND), followed by a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Town and Regional Planning at the Lagos State Polytechnic.
He subsequently pursued a degree in Computer Science at the University of Lagos.
“My growing up was a miracle in a way. All through my secondary school days, I was not even one of the tallest students. But right after secondary school, I started feeling that I was growing tall. Ten years after secondary school, some of my mates who hadn’t seen me for long started telling me I was no longer the same Oladimeji they knew. They said I had become an alien because I was twice as tall as them,” he told The Nation in an interview.
Oladimeji said his parents had to give him some special care and attention due to his condition.
“My father, when he was still alive, showed a lot of concern, especially because it got to a point when none of my clothes and shoes could size me anymore. He took me to Igbobi Hospital to ascertain whether I had one deficiency but the doctors never saw anything.”
“My father, before he died, built a house that would be convenient for me to move in and out, and that has helped me greatly as I bear the pain and challenges of rheumatism.
“When he died in 2005, my mummy was sceptical about my health condition. She took me to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital to get me tested and the report of the test was that I was over-secreting glands. I later underwent a heart surgery in the US. Heart correction is one of the surgeries that most persons with abnormal growth will have to go through.”
Oladimeji, who has since been an actor and model, said his condition requires him to work out regularly to ease the load on his legs. He previously had difficulties finding a job as well because most employers were intimidated by his height, he said.
Luckily, he got a contract job with the Lagos State Government, which lasted for two years. He subsequently decided to establish small businesses for himself and is, at the moment, combining those with his work in modelling and entertainment.
But to move around, Oladimeji has had to rely mostly on commercial motorcycles. If it’s a taxi, the passenger seat in front has to be adjusted all the way to the back for him to be able to fit in. His clothes are often made from special tailors who sew to fit his size while his shoes and other personal items are usually imported from the U.S.
Then the other major challenge for most people of his height arrived: finding a partner.
“Many ladies run away from me as a result of my height; so finding a wife, for a long time, was tough,” Oladimeji recalled. He, however, indicated this June that he had found a woman who he has proposed to and would be marrying soon.
Despite the setbacks, the actor and model said he does not regret his condition as the positives are far greater than the negatives. Apart from the love and special treatment he receives from people due to his height, what he finds awesome was how swiftly he got a visa when he applied to go to the U.S.
He is, nevertheless, not happy with officials in Lagos, especially the Lagos State Tourism Board after a promise to make him a Tourism Ambassador due to his exceptional height is yet to be fulfilled.
Oladimeji is currently among several others who have grown much taller than they otherwise would.
From time immemorial, there exist stories of men and women who grew above the normal human height — a phenomenon that has attracted several scientific terms, such as pituitary gigantism, eunuchoid tallness, acromegaly, and Sotos syndrome.
Sultan Kösen is currently the world’s tallest man while Africa tallest men include: Hussein Mohamed Bisad; the tallest man in Somalia; father of four Jackson Kipkirui Koskei, suspected to be the tallest man in Kenya, and Mounir Fourar who remains Algeria’s tallest man despite his death in 2012.
Scientists say children who have an adenoma, a tumor of the pituitary gland, may secrete too much growth hormone which can cause them to grow much taller than they otherwise would.
According to an article by Medical News Today, gigantism is almost always the result of a pituitary tumour, though some rare medical conditions can also cause excessive growth. These include Carney complex, neurofibromatosis, McCune-Albright syndrome and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1.
“People who are abnormally tall are also at risk of a wide number of health issues. Their excessive size can strain the metabolic system and cause cardiovascular problems, including an enlarged heart,” the article added.