Online post, media misleadingly claim Nigeria’s first lady criticised Meghan’s choice of clothes

The visit of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to Nigeria in May elicited a flurry of media attention. It also sparked disinformation when a YouTuber suggested that a video showed Nigeria’s First Lady Oluremi Tinubu berating the Duchess of Sussex for dressing indecently during her trip to the West African country. But the claim, which made international headlines, is misleading: Tinubu’s comments were aimed at young Nigerian women in her televised speech. The first lady’s office told AFP Fact Check she had not criticised “Meghan’s dressing”. The TV station that filmed the speech and whose footage was shown in the YouTuber’s post, also denied that Tinubu had reprimanded Markle.

“Meghan Markle managed to create an international incident! We warned her about the clothes,” reads a post shared on X on May 25, 2024. 

A screenshot of the misleading claim, taken on May 29, 2024

It features a 1’14” clip of Nigerian First Lady Oluremi Tinubu speaking at an event. 

It also contains two photos: one shows Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, wearing a patterned halter-neck gown. In the other, she is seen in a dress with spaghetti straps, holding Prince Harry’s hand as they walk together. 

The caption includes disparaging hashtags directed at Markle. 

The post has received nearly 3,000 likes and more than 350 reshares.

It was shared by Nancy Sidley-Sussex, one half of a US online duo called the Sidley Twins who run a YouTube channel discussing “pop culture” and “Royal gossip” (archived here). Their feed, which boasts more than 50,000 subscribers, features numerous clips critical of Markle. 

News outlets around the world, including British media, picked up Sidley-Sussex’s X post.

UK tabloid The Sun ran a story with the headline “Meghan Markle is blasted by Nigeria’s First Lady over her ‘nakedness’ during ‘faux royal visit’ to the country” (archived here). Other examples can be found here, here, here and here.

The claim surfaced after Markle and Prince Harry visited Nigeria in May to promote his Invictus Games (archived here). 

During the trip, Meghan spoke at an event for women in leadership with Nigerian-born World Trade Organization director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The Duchess discussed her Nigerian heritage – referring to the West African nation as “my country” –  and being a role model for women.  

“I think, being African-American, part of it is not really knowing so much about your genealogy, background, where you came from specifically,” Meghan told the audience on May 10, 2024 (archived here). 

“It was exciting…to discover more and what that (having Nigerian heritage) really means.” 

A few days later, Nigeria’s first lady held an address celebrating her husband Bola Tinubu’s first year in office and discussed the importance of “good morals” and “cultural values” (archived here).

However, the claim that she criticised Meghan’s choice of clothing is misleading.

‘Meghan’s Nigerian Heritage’

In her speech, seen in the clip shared by Sidley-Sussex, Tinubu reprimanded young Nigerian women for dressing indecently, accusing them of mimicking “film stars from America” who “don’t know where they came from” (archived here).

She then said that Markle had visited Nigeria “looking for Africa” to understand her identity and where she came from. 

The first lady did not comment on the Duchess’s attire. Tinubu’s office also said her comments had been taken out of context. 

“She meant Meghan appreciates the people we are and hence her coming here,” the office said in an email to AFP Fact Check. 

“At no point did she say anything about Meghan’s dressing.”

Arise News, whose clip was used in the misleading post, also rejected the claim.

The footage shows Tinubu commenting that Markle “came looking for her roots,” the broadcaster told AFP Fact Check.

Prince Harry and Meghan quit the royal frontline in 2020. They now live in California and have been largely estranged from the family following an acrimonious split (archived here).

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