Harry and Megan visit Nigeria to promote the Invictus Games and Champion Mental Health

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Meghan Markle (Left) and Prince Harry (Right) in Nigeria, May 10, 2024 (Sunday Alamba/AP).

Last Friday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived in Nigeria to promote the 10th biennial Invictus Games and champion mental health. Four years have passed since the couple stepped out as working royals and the trip marked a rare unofficial tour that saw traveling funds covered by the Nigerian government and military.

Invictus, also meaning “unconquered,” is an international multi-sport philanthropic event founded by Prince Harry to embody the fighting spirit of the injured and wounded personnel, both in service and veterans. First held in London in 2014, the event is known to be dear to his heart.

But why Nigeria? Listed as the ninth most dangerous country globally, a trip to the West African nation without British government-backed security seemed surprising to many. However, knowing the country’s characterization as comprising the largest army in Africa, consisting of 230,000 personnel of which 30% are women, as well as holding major elements of the previous 2023 Invictus Games, the visit was deemed by media to be a reasonable act that gave popularity to the much-deserved disabled Nigerian Invictus team. The team, which functioned as the first African team to compete in the event in 2023, saw huge competition success, consequently posturing a significant spectacle for the world, bringing people together under the shared interest of endorsing heroes in service.

Afua Hagen, an award-winning journalist who has been following the event, corroborates the Game’s significance to Nigeria. It is a rarity in view of Nigeria being shown in a “positive light” to the world, she says. Hagen’s statement is relevant for reflection; recent news only saw Nigeria’s 10th anniversary of the Chibok girl abductions as well as the reawakening of poverty-stricken stigmas attached to the nation.

Evidently, the visit was meaningful. The first stop was a school in the capital city, Abuja. “I see myself in all of you,” says Megan during the school’s meet and greet, revealing that she discovered herself to be 43% Nigerian after a genealogy test last year. In a further panel that week, Megan described the trip as a “humbling experience to connect with her heritage” as she is so thankful to be amongst one of the most “brave, resilient, [and] powerful individuals out there” – just like all Nigerian women.

Likewise, Harry hopes to lift spirits, telling school kids in a speech on mental health that “it’s okay not to be okay” as “there’s no shame in acknowledging that today is a bad day.” Additionally, Harry visited military hospitals and the defense headquarters, honoring the unwavering diligence and devotional invitation of the Nigerian military. The couple also met with locals, charity groups, and governors, and stopped by a basketball clinic, channeling their Archewell message that gauged “service as universal” and access as equitable. Foreseeably, locals reflected feeling enlightened by the couple’s presence.

Regardless, many felt disrespected by the unofficial act, noting that they “felt betrayed by the Nigerian government” as it seemed like the couple was using publicity as an agenda to solely represent themselves as individuals, not the mass disabled Nigerian community. Many commented on how the two had no actual diplomatic leverage nor representation of a particular government or country, making it hard to believe the appearance wasn’t just manufactured content proclaiming their new Netflix project or flaunting the launch of Megan’s new brand American Riviera Orchard.

“It looked like a very glamorous tour,” exclaimed the Secretary General of the National Youth Alliance after calling Megan out for turning up in thousands of dollars of Jewelry, including Princess Diana’s cross necklace in attendance of “schools” and “disabled competitions.” The event’s journalists saw an “uncomfortable juxtaposition” of a “wealthy couple visiting places like the police,” not long after the # End Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) anti-police brutality protest in Nigeria. People saw that Megan fancied reinventing her public image, and her royal connection was the only thing keeping her profile alive.

This was not the first time Megan’s “publicity-loving image” received public criticism. However, Megan’s “favorables” (international poll) surprisingly gone up to a net positive of 12% since the beginning of this year, a big leap from last year and a whisper to the Duchess’ charitable intentions.

In any event, the Nigerian visit marked the couple’s first step towards modernizing their social brand after detachment from royal services. Hagen adds that the couple is simply starting to understand their heritage and undertake things they are passionate about, “if you don’t know where you’re coming from you don’t know where you’re going,” says Megan.

Written by Julia Jiang

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