Meghan visited Nigeria as a duchess and left an African princess


NIGERIA – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex embarked on what was officially dubbed a 3-day private visit to Nigeria, yet it unfolded with all the grandeur and attention typically reserved for royal tours. Their first day saw them receive a red-carpet welcome complete with cultural dancers following their arrival in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where they kicked off a multi-day mental health summit at Lightway Academy. There, they also unveiled a partnership between their Archewell Foundation and the GEANCO Foundation to provide students with school supplies and menstrual products.

The pair had been invited to the West African nation by the country’s highest-ranking military official, Christopher Musa. After meeting him at the Nigerian Defense Headquarters, Meghan signed a guest book thanking officials for “welcoming me home.”

Despite the private nature of their visit, the couple’s itinerary resembled previous official tours they carried out before stepping back as senior working royals in 2020. They were warmly received everywhere they went, with Nigerians showcasing their famed hospitality. The couple were showered with gifts, including a touching portrait of a young Harry with his mum. For both Nigeria and the Sussexes, this visit held significant weight.

It was an opportunity for Nigeria to demonstrate its capability to host such high-profile guests and dispel any doubts raised by skeptics, especially considering the country’s standing in the eyes of the UK’s Foreign Office as one of the most dangerous countries to visit in the world.

Nigeria has security issues with a terrorist insurgency in the northeast and northwest. However, it is a huge country — larger than the US state of Texas — and the other areas visited by the royal couple over the past several days are relatively safe.

Meanwhile, for Prince Harry and Meghan, this marked their first major trip to Africa since relinquishing their official royal duties. It was a chance for them to engage in a hearts-and-minds charm offensive, which they executed with aplomb. Meghan, in particular, embraced exploring her Nigerian ancestry after discovering several years ago that she is 43% Nigerian through a genealogy test.

Last Saturday, she co-hosted a women’s leadership event with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, for about 50 leading women from across Nigerian society and politics, business, media, and culture.

During a panel discussion, moderated by Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu, the duchess spoke passionately about uncovering her Nigerian roots and its significance to her own identity. She described Nigeria as “my country,” adding that “being African American, part of it is not knowing so much about your lineage or background, where you come from specifically. And it was exciting … to discover more and understand what that really means.” It was here that Meghan’s natural ability to connect really shone through. She chatted effortlessly with attendees, posed for selfies and engaged in heartfelt conversations.

At another event last Sunday at the prestigious Delborough Hotel in Lagos – where the great and good of Nigerian society had gathered to welcome the couple – she appeared visibly moved when three powerful traditional rulers honored her with royal titles.

The Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe christened Meghan “Ada Mazi,” which means “the daughter of the Igbo ancestral palace.” While, the Oluwo of Iwoland, southwest, Nigeria, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi christened her with the Yoruba name of “Adetokunbo” which means “royalty from across the seas.”

Their engagements during the three-day visit were centered around their core passions: sports rehabilitation, mental health, and women’s empowerment. For Harry’s part, the duke demonstrated his compassion and connection to his late mother, Princess Diana, as he visited wounded soldiers at a military hospital in Kaduna, 150 miles from Abuja. His first stop was to drop in on the governor of Kaduna state, Senator Uba Sani, where he was again welcomed by a troupe of dancers and a red carpet. Governor Sani sat opposite him and praised Harry as a “symbol of courage,” and “praised his service to his country.” He added: “Please give our regards to the Duchess of Sussex, Princess Meghan.”

Harry toured about six wards at the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital and met young men recuperating from their injuries. Many had been shot, ambushed by Boko Haram, or lost limbs due to blasts. One moment captured by photographer Misan Harriman, showing Harry holding a wounded soldier lying on the hospital bed resonated deeply and went viral on social media. Corporal Yusef, 23, who had been shot through the knee, spoke with the duke, who asked him about his rehab. “Are you going to try for the Invictus Games team? Are you preparing for that?… We will see you there,” Harry said.

Their visit also extended to cultural experiences, such as witnessing a vibrant dance performance and a polo match at the historic Lagos Polo Club. Polo holds special significance for Harry and the event provided a platform to showcase his longstanding commitment to the sport and its charitable endeavors.

Amid the festivities, the couple expressed gratitude for Nigeria’s warm reception. As they bid farewell to Nigeria, Meghan declared: “I can’t wait to come back!”