Think you’re tall? Wait until you stand beside Afeez Agoro Oladimeji. Unofficially regarded as the tallest man in Nigeria, Oladimeji carries a burden of height, which he says initially denied him of relationships and caused him so much inconveniencies. However, the 44-year-old is cool now and tells Adeola Ogunlade that the government should consider him as the nation’s Tourism Ambassador.
His arrival stirred the whole gathering and literally put all proceedings on hold. Heads turned, mouths opened wide and eyes popped, almost out of their sockets. It was the closest thing they had seen to the biblical Goliath – except that this one wasn’t barrel-chested like the holy book had made them believe. A 7-footer of a man? Surely they weren’t dreaming, as they took another look at the specimen again.
He had to bend almost doubly – albeit, with some help – to come into the hall, before making straight for the podium. There, he stood for a brief awkward moment, as organisers of the day’s event searched frantically for a suitable seat for him.
As he settled in the chair beside popular disc jockey, DJ Jimmy Jatt, CDQ and the founder of Celebrity and Fans Relationship Manager (CFRM), Ademola Fawaz, you could tell it was huge relief for him, as he looked to have had a stressful day.
The occasion was at a Lagos A-list hotel, where students from primary to tertiary institutions had gathered to savour rewards of a quiz competition they had participated in online, tagged ‘Get Help Merit, by Celebrity and Fans Relationship Manager, sponsored by popular hip-hop artiste, Sadiq Abubakar Yusuf popularly known by the stage name, CDQ.
They had been asked to name 10 things they knew about the artiste and hip-hop music in Nigeria, of which four lucky students from Oyo and Lagos States emerged winners.
The MC of the day wasted no time in satisfying their curiosity. “His name is Afeez Agoro Oladimeji, the tallest man in Nigeria,” he announced almost with glee. Everyone in the hall clapped. Thereafter, he quite clearly stole the show, as everyone, including the winners made him their object of attention.
As the event came to an end, Oladimeji stood up to take his leave, but the admiration wouldn’t just abate, not even the foreign guests were left out. But like a man who has been used to that treatment, he took it all in his stride and walked out of the venue, smiling and waving. Several guests, including this reporter, who had fancied himself a tall man, struggled to take photographs with Oladimeji, sizing up their diminutiveness, as it were.
That was penultimate Wednesday. However, for this curious reporter, that was never going to be the end of the story.
At home with ‘Mr Tallest’
On Monday, he put a call through to him for an interview request, but that was another awesome experience. In all his over three decades on planet earth, this reporter could swear he had never heard such deep baritone voice. Where on earth did this guy emerge from?
Appointment sealed, a date was set for a proper engagement.
Both parties agreed to meet at a Motherless Babies Home opposite CMS Grammer School, Bariga, not too far from his home.
Afeez Agoro Oladimeji was born in Sabo, Yaba, in metropolitan Lagos on December 13, 1975. He is the youngest of his mother’s three children, who is second wife to his father. His earliest childhood memories were of that community, but he later moved with his family to nearby Akoka at age seven, where he grew up and attended St. Finbarr’s College. He later obtained an Ordinary National Diploma (OND), followed by a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Town and Regional Planning at the Lagos State Polytechnic. He followed it up with a degree in Computer Science at the University of Lagos.
As much as he could recall, nothing in his childhood suggested he was going to end up this tall. “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.”
As the years rolled by, Oladimeji said he faced lots of health and physical challenges. At age 19, he took ill, and the condition brought about a rapid growth that was strange to all. He fell ill several times after and consequently grew taller. All medical attempts to control the strange growth failed, and today, he stands at a towering 7ft.4 inches. That, as far as available records can testify, makes him the tallest man in Nigeria, and one of the tallest in Africa.
However, when asked if he ever wished he wasn’t this tall, the giant of a man said, “No, I wouldn’t say that, because this height has become a blessing to me. I have met several people who have extended their hands of love toward me on account of my unique height.”
He recalled how when he applied to go the United State of America, he was given a Visa almost effortlessly, because the Consular General told him there was no way he could escape. “I was given a Visa and I spent six months in the United States and my experience there was awesome and memorable.”
Aside that, he said, “In my area, people treat me like a special being; they treat me so well. In fact, I get a lot of support from people everywhere I go.”
Though he quickly added that there are some deficiencies and awkward moments, but he maintained that the merits far outweigh the deficiencies.
Possible health explanations
Even though medical explanations were not immediately available to explain Oladimeji’s growth, it may not be unrelated with situations his likes have suffered across the globe. 7ft. 11.2inches tall Pakistani, Zia Rasheed, is said to have been a victim of a malfunction of the pituitary gland, which causes benign tumors that in turn produce up to 1,000 times the normal amount of growth hormones. Rasheed had undergone three surgeries already but new and growing tumors will require more procedures.
Also, the tallest man on earth, Sultan Kösen, who is 8tf 2.82inches tall received Gamma Knife treatment for his pituitary tumour at the University of Virginia Medical School and was provided with medication to control his excessive level of growth hormone. It was confirmed in March 2012 that the treatment had been effective in halting Kösen’s growth.
On how his parents handled the ‘abnormal’ situation, Agoro said, “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.”
He expressed gratitude to his father, most especially for putting him into consideration when building his house. “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 skeptical 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.”
Asked how he copes with the load on his legs, Agoro said, “I need to work out regularly. Wake up early in the morning and go for exercises. I sleep very late and I wake up around 9:00am to 10: 00 am in the morning.
After completing his NYSC in Bayelsa, Oladimeji returned to Lagos to seek for a job but was repeatedly turned down. He imagined a good number of them was intimidated by his height.
Fortunately, he got a contract job with the Lagos State Government, which lasted for two years. From there, he went on to set up small businesses for himself.
“I only got a two-year contract job with the Lagos State Government because it was difficult for me to get a regular job, even though I had the qualification and could excel. They turned me down because of my height. Today, I am into business, buying and selling and my customers have been very supportive. I also do modeling and I’m into entertainment,” he said.
Beyond the job issues, Oladimeji has challenges moving around. “Some years ago, I had a jeep that I took to a panel-beater to help adjust the seat, so it would be convenient for me to drive. Since that vehicle packed up, the 44-year-old has had to rely mostly on commercial motorcycles to cover short distances or Uber taxis, whose charges are telling on his resources.
“I depend largely on commercial motorcycles to move around Akoka and environs because of my inability to fit into commercial buses. I take Uber most times if I have appointments outside Akoka. Anytime I board a taxi, the passenger seat in front has to be adjusted all the way to the back for me to be able to fit in,” he said.
No size on the shelves
For his massive height, Oladimeji wears an amazing shoe-size 53 – hardly in the market; while his clothes size cannot be found on the shelves anywhere in Nigeria. “For shirts and trousers, I have to buy the clothing materials in the market and take them to my special tailor to sew to fit my size because it is hard getting my size in the market. Most times, my shoes are imported from the US. Rarely am I ever able to get my shoe size in Yaba (Lagos). Even to get a comfortable bed to sleep on has come with its challenges. I presently use a 4 by 8 size bed.”
Tough finding love
All over the world, finding partners is another major challenge men in the ‘tallest’ category face, – be it Paskistan, Turkey or even the United State of America. Oladimeji is not left out.
“Many ladies run away from me as a result of my height; so finding a wife, for a long time, was tough,” he recalled.
However, that’s in the past now. ‘Mr. Tallest’ now has a heartthrob, who has taken him for who he is and both are due to be engaged anytime soon.
“She was one of my fans. She came to me and said she wanted to be my friend; and during that process, I proposed to her and she accepted. We are planning our engagement soon.”
Relief, you’d say, for a man who confessed that he stopped going out for many years due to the initial challenges accruing from his height.
Today, he also says happily, “I go out and the acceptance has been awesome.”
Asked if he wasn’t bothered about the initial rejection from the female-folk, Oladimeji said, “Those years of waiting didn’t bother me. My mother, at some point tried to arrange a woman for me, but it didn’t quite work out. But I knew that there is a special woman for me out there that God has created especially for me. She is 5ft tall.”
Asked if there is any government support for people like him, Oladimeji said, “None. I once visited the Lagos State Tourism Board and they promised to make me Tourism Ambassador in Lagos, but they’re yet to make good that promised.
He thinks that’s a big minus though. “Government is paying little attention to the creative industry. If I am the tallest out of 200 million people, then I should be celebrated and supported.”