The Sussexes' Nigeria tour was really just Meghan's homecoming

The warm, grand reception, titling, and gifting that Meghan received may seem like customary Nigerian magnanimity on surface level, but they're beyond that.

Not many Nigerian receptions of foreign dignitaries have been as grand, culturally grounding, or illustrious as Meghan Markle's honorary welcome—and I say this as someone who has extensively read and heard about the rave around Princess Diana's 1990 visit

It wasn't the typical British-style engulfment in a swarm of press photographers whose photos would cover hateful tabloids and even acclaimed publications. It didn't look like a profligate gathering of classist upper-crusters, filled with spiteful royalists and paparazzi seething in resentment.

No, this was all true love—a way to let Meghan know that she wasn't just genealogically associated with Nigeria, but that she was finally home.

My first introduction to Meghan Markle was the Suits TV show which I loved briefly, and then her wedding to Prince Harry—an event that razed through the tiniest suburbs in my state, graced covers of widely read blogs and newspapers, and stayed on many lips for weeks. I remember that a much younger me was deeply perturbed by the expectations Meghan had to meet as a royal member and called the bluff. “It’ll only be for a few years,” I told my sister, huffing, “when things calm, I'm sure she'll have her life back.” 

Boy, was I wrong? It was until I came into feminism and started to grapple with an understanding of racial nuance, that I truly understood the challenges she faced.

There's something about Nigeria's sense of community that eases the mind, helps you let go of pent-up frustration, and is as comforting as a mother's embrace—something almost extraordinary. It's present in our religious gatherings and traditional ones, educational institutions, micro-communities, and literally anywhere else. I was not nearly surprised that Meghan would be donned in it, but I didn't expect her to carry gleeful amazement of it in her eyes through every visit to the communities that received her.

In some media clips that surfaced online, many wraps of colourful Aso oké are gently pushed into Meghan and Harry's palms in the traditional Nigerian manner of insisting a visitor accepts their gift.

In another clip, both Meghan and her husband are adorned in hefty traditional beads around their necks, and prayers and blessings of safety and goodwill never leave the lips of the elderly Nigerians around them. Other clips show she also received artwork from students who encircle her like a sister they had been expecting.

Everyone greeted her with love and gifts—that she thankfully got to keep—surrounding her with the Nigerianess she'd need to take back with her.

By day two of the three-day Invictus Games anniversary visit, a peculiar clip reveals what seems like an inherent Nigeriannes in Meghan. In an open basketball court, alongside Harry, she sits across a group of adolescent basketball players who she stares at in amazement. Adewale Ayuba’s Koloba Koloba blasts through a speaker and serenades the yard, but it is almost like it's meant for just Meghan.

She shrugs her shoulders in perfect rhythm to the Afrobeats song—a kind of movement that's too coordinated, yet dramatic to not be called Nigerian—and it's almost like she understands the lyrics Ayuba sings. In the 2021 hit, Ayuba talks about not minding familial naysayers who didn't want him to marry their daughter: the perfect song choice that only a Nigerian organiser can make, and another would love. 

Meghan also sat through several naming ceremonies which were, at large, culturally immersive but also career-uplifting. One of them was a Women In Leadership seminar piloted by the Director General of the World Trade Organization and one of Africa's most decorated women, Ngọzi Okonjo-Iweala.

She was christened Ifeoma (good things) in Igbo, Omowale (a child has come home) in Yoruba, and Edidiong (blessing) in Efik. Her speech in the seminar was as flattering as Orire's gracious blood-red dress that quickly sold out in hours. “What’s been echoed in the past by men and women alike have been 'oh, we weren't surprised when we found out you're Nigerian'. And it's a compliment to all of you,” she said to the audience. “Because what they define as a Nigerian woman is brave, resilient, courageous, powerful, and beautiful.”

In another one, amidst a gathering of kings—the Obi of Onitsha, the Olu of Warri, the Eze of Arochokwu, the Oluwo of Iwo, and chief of Lagos, and Aare Okoya— she was titled, the Ada Mazi of Arochokwu. An honourific that doesn't just confer daughterhood to the kingdom of Arochokwu on her, but one that is highly revered. Nothing looked more regal than the drape of the green and yellow-coloured Yoruba Aso oké against her bright yellow Carolina Herrera dress (which she wore for the announcement of her pregnancy with Lilibet). Just fit to be in that company.

This warm, grand reception, titling, and gifting that Meghan received may seem like customary Nigerian magnanimity on surface level, but they're beyond that. This was something out of the ordinary—a not-so-subtle message to anyone who cared to listen that Meghan had a home now, and Nigerians don't play about their own.