First Lady of Nigeria Clarifies Comments About Meghan Markle amid False Reports

(Right) First Lady of Nigeria, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 19, 2024; (Left) Meghan Markle at a polo match in Lagos, Nigeria, on May 12, 2024. . PHOTO: MUSTAFA KAMACI/ANADOLU/GETTY; KOLA SULAIMON/AFP/GETTY
  • The office of Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, the First Lady of Nigeria, has clarified her recent speech mentioning Meghan Markle
  • The First Lady’s office said that she never referenced “Meghan’s dressing”
  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Nigeria at the invitation of its highest-ranking military official from May 10 to May 12

The First Lady of Nigeria is clarifying her remarks after a recent speech was misinterpreted as criticism of Meghan Markle’s attire during her visit to the country.

First Lady Sen. Oluremi Tinubu made headlines after Meghan’s visit when a video surfaced of her discussing the challenges faced by Nigeria’s youth at an event celebrating the first year of her husband, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s, presidency.

“We are not having the Met Gala . . . We don’t accept nakedness in our culture,” First Lady Tinubu said in part during her speech. “It is not beautiful at all . . . They are mimicking and trying to emulate film stars from America. They don’t know where they come from. Why did Meghan come here, looking for Africa? That is something we have to take home with. We know who we are, and don’t lose who you are.”

According to the First Lady’s office, Tinubu’s reference to the Duchess of Sussex was about her journey to understand her identity and where she came from after Meghan learned she is of Nigerian heritage.

“She meant Meghan appreciates the people we are and hence her coming here,” the First Lady’s office said in a statement to AFP Fact Check in a story published on May 30. “At no point did she say anything about Meghan’s dressing.”

Meghan Markle in Abuja, Nigeria on May 10, 2024; Meghan Markle in Abuja, Nigeria on May 11, 2024; Meghan Markle in Lagos, Nigeria on May 12, 2024. KOLA SULAIMON/AFP VIA GETTY, EMMANUEL OSODI/ANADOLU VIA GETTY, KOLA SULAIMON/AFP VIA GETTY

The clarification follows inaccurate reports from various media outlets, suggesting that the speech directly criticized the Duchess of Sussex’s tour wardrobe.

Tinubu’s office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Meghan and Prince Harry visited Nigeria at the invitation of the Chief of Defense Staff, the country’s highest-ranking military official, from May 10 to May 12. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not publicly meet with the President of Nigeria or his wife during their trip.

The First Lady of Nigeria delivered her speech on May 25 at an event titled “Celebrating the Woman” in Abuja, Arise News reported. In remarks shared to YouTube, Tinubu stressed the importance of setting a positive example for the next generation and alluded that Meghan visited Nigeria to reconnect with her roots. The Duchess of Sussex said in 2022 that she learned she was 43% Nigerian through a genealogy test and spoke about feeling a connection to the country throughout her trip with Harry.

First Lady of Nigeria Oluremi Tinubu speaks at an event for Promoting Awareness Against Cancer in Organization of Islamic Cooperation African Member States Abuja, Nigeria, on May 16 ,2024. DOGUKAN KESKINKILIC/ANADOLU/GETTY

“The message here is, we have to salvage our children. You know we see the way they dress, they keep forgetting that Nigeria, we are beautiful. The moment you can see what they showcase on the stage, I said, we are fashionable! We see what is going on,” Tinubu said in part at the event.

“We are not having the Met Gala. And everyone, the nakedness is just everywhere, and the men are well-clothed. So we have to do something. Tell them the way it is — we don’t accept nakedness in our culture. That is not beautiful,” she continued, as the audience applauded.

“It is not beautiful at all. And they are all beautiful girls, but they should be confident in who they are. They are mimicking and trying to emulate film stars from America. They don’t know where they come from,” the First Lady said. “Why did Meghan come here, looking for Africa? That is something we have to take home with. We know who we are, and don’t lose who you are.”

The couple traveled abroad to champion their Archewell Foundation’s mental health initiatives for young people and to promote Harry’s Invictus Games, which Nigeria joined for the first time in 2023.

PEOPLE’s chief foreign correspondent Simon Perry covered the trip to West Africa, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex opened up about how they made every moment count.

(Center) Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at a exhibition sitting volleyball match at Nigeria Unconquered in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 11, 2024. KOLA SULAIMON/AFP VIA GETTY

Speaking with PEOPLE on the tour, Prince Harry said, “These trips are about us being able to go out and go and focus on the things that mean so much to us. And being able to be on the ground, to us, is what it’s all about.”

“It’s really meaningful. Just being able to connect to people… that’s what makes it special,” added Meghan.

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