How Kai Cenat’s Visit to Nigeria Exposes our Inferiority Complex

By Olayemi Olaniyi Mar23,2024
kai Cenat Nigeria
Kai Cenat at Murtala Muhammed International Airport

American YouTuber and streamer, Kai Cenat recently came to Nigeria. He caused quite a wave online and on the streets of Lagos. His homecoming made him join the ranks of famous black Americans who have visited the proverbial motherland. Nigerians fawned over his visit as they shared clips of his shenanigans on social media. It must mean something for the world’s biggest streamer to visit Nigeria on his first visit to Africa, the motherland. He left for Ghana after four days of eating jollof rice for the first time; visiting Makoko, a fluvial slum in Lagos; participating in a dating show; playing basketball, and hanging out with Davido. From what I learned, he was also given a grand reception in Ghana. I suspect Ghanaians felt the need to outdo Nigerians in welcoming him given the puerile internet rivalry between both countries.

One would have thought this was an inauspicious time for a content creator to come to Nigeria given the doom and gloom in the land on account of astronomical inflation, a tanking Naira; all signs of a failed economy. Kai Cenat, from the few clips I gleaned here and there on X and his YouTube channel, experienced nothing short of a megastar reception right from his disembarkation at Murtala Muhammed Airport. You’d think Micheal Jackson was in town at the peak of his career. 

Dressed in the trendy Senator Style, Kai paid his sartorial homage to the motherland. Right in the airport, he was met by a crew led by a Shanks, a Nigerian skit maker. He greeted everyone warmly from airport staff to strangers to the crew that welcomed him. As more fans crowded around him, the more curiosity he sparked in strangers. Until his visit, I knew very little of him. But watching videos of his stay in Nigeria, it’s easy to tell why he is the biggest streamer in the world. He is energetic. He doesn’t seem to run out of things to say at any moment. And on top of that, he has a genial personality. 

Stepping outside the airport, another crowd of fans was already waiting for him. One fan who claimed he had been waiting for him at the airport for three days gave him a Kai Cenat portrait and a Kai Cenat branded t-shirt. He even had a picture of Kai Cenat on his underwear! Within a few minutes after landing, Kai was already overwhelmed with love and admiration from Nigerians. He confessed he had never received that type of treatment in his life. Being as big as he is, I imagine he had been to a few places. But his experience with a multitude of sycophantic Nigerian fans fawning over him must have meant a great deal to him. 

I understand that as humans, we are attracted to fame. We crave it. But if we can’t attain it, we hero-worship the famous. We see them as next to divinity. When we have a brush with the famous, we want to hug them, tell them how much we adore them, lie about how they’ve changed our lives, and possibly take pictures or videos as social proof. Camera phones and social media algorithms have certainly exacerbated this tendency in us. In a sense, the Nigerians who fawned over Kai Cenat were simply acting out a primal urge.

The urge to hero-worship celebrities and politicians also exists for religious leaders. I’ll argue it’s worse in religion. I’ve attended church programmes where people were fighting themselves over the chair the pastor had sat on. I saw this as an undergraduate at Obafemi Awolowo University every time a pastor of repute was invited. I specifically saw this at separate times W.F Kumuyi and D.K Olukoya, respective founders of the Deeper Life Bible Church, and Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries were invited. Though the university is supposed to be the pinnacle of enlightenment, even undergraduates couldn’t help but fight over a chair they thought had been anointed simply because a pastor they idolised had sat on it. 

Hero worship is very fascinating and I’ve been trying to hypothesize on the psychology behind it. But that aside, Kai Cenat’s homecoming exposes an inferiority complex among Africans. It’s an uncomfortable truth but it needs to be said. To be clear, I am not a Danshiki-wearing cornrowed cowrie-beaded African activist. I say this as a caveat lest it seems this piece is bourne out of the familiar lamentation of African cultural purists who decry how westernisation has colonised us out of the African essence. I don’t like to wear the toga of an African whose writing is meant to counter negative stereotypes about Africa nor do I fancy myself as a modern African crusader whose mission is to proselytise the ways of our ancestors to educate people out of what Fela called ColomentalityI’m a fan of Fela though.

Africa has a problem. My diagnosis is similar to that of the Danshiki-wearers. Similar in appearance, but distinct in the final analysis. Similar because it is a truism that Africans crave Western validation while maintaining overt or covert condescension for themselves. The point of divergence between me and cornrowed African comrades is they hold the view that a renaissance of abandoned traditional African cultures is the panacea to all our problems while I believe that Africans need to support themselves to get out of the doldrums of poverty. We are our saviour and that means we need to invest in ourselves and prioritise our products more. Essentially, we need to look more inwards than outwards. My prescription borders on the socioeconomic but theirs borders on the cultural. I could care less about some romanticised values we had in the past before, as they like to say, the white man came to enslave our minds.

Being the biggest streamer in the world certainly helped endear Kai Cenat to his fawning fans. But being an American also played a hugely important role. We hero-worship anything or anyone who has a Western origin or exposure. A football-loving friend of mine recently told me about Nketiah, a mediocre English footballer of Ghanaian descent. He plays for Arsenal FC and sometime in 2022, he travelled to Ghana for his homecoming. They rolled out the drums for him and welcomed him with fanfare. Someone called him a hero on X. This is someone whose only claim to fame is being a mediocre footballer in an English club. But for some reason, he became the symbol of Ghanian greatness. 

Nigerians crave Western awards like the Oscars and Grammys. For years, we decried how racist the organisers of Grammy Awards supposedly are for not awarding one of ours. I mean, these are American awards and the organisers owe us nothing. But we wanted that Western validation so badly regardless of the successes our music and movies had at home and in Africa. The interesting thing is our celebrities do not even care about local awards once they cross a certain point of stardom. Music fans spend hours online reeling out the achievements of Afrobeats stars like Burna Boy, Davido, and Wizkid. Their talking points often involve how they sell out shows in North America and Europe; how many international awards they’ve won; and how many international collaborations they have. You are not successful until you are validated in America or Europe. You don’t have to be a Pan-Africanist to see how this stems from an inferiority complex we don’t want to admit we have.

The same thing exists in the literary space. To date, many believe Kenyan author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o deserves a Nobel Prize. Chinua Achebe died not winning one. Maybe both of them deserve it. But winning or not, who cares? The Nobel Prize is not an African award. What stops us from having our version of it? We can’t say on the one hand that the organisers of these Western awards are racist while on the other hand fight tooth and nail to win said awards. That’s cognitive dissonance stemming from our need for Western validation and victim complex. 

Obama snubbed Nigeria the two times he visited Africa when he was president of the United States. I remember Nigerians fuming over this. Why would he choose Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa, and Egypt over us? Did he not know Nigeria is the largest black democracy in the world? We asked stupid questions like that as if he owed us his itinerary. When Emmanuel Macron visited a few years ago, we were all over him. If an African head of state had visited, we would not have cared a bit. As long as it’s someone of repute from Europe or North America, watch how we’d grin and dot on them like bumbling idiots.

Watching how hospitable Nigerians were to Kai Cenat, you’d think Nigerians must really be a loving people. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. All the fawning over him was because of what is his; the biggest streamer in the world, and who he is; an American. In Nigeria, if you are not a somebody no one cares. Unfortunately for Kai, he left Nigeria with the impression that we are a nice people. He doesn’t realise he is just an embodiment of an ideal Nigerians and Africans like to apotheosise because of their inferiority complex.

By Olayemi Olaniyi

Olayemi is the publisher of The Disaffected Magazine. He also hosts the Disaffected Nigerian Podcast. He enjoys everything from Evolutionary Psychology to the syncopations of Apala music to Fela's discography. He fancies himself as an Amala enthusiast. His dream is to be a travel writer someday. He can be reached on X @LukeOlaniyi.  

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5 thoughts on “How Kai Cenat’s Visit to Nigeria Exposes our Inferiority Complex”
    1. You made some valid points. Replace Kai Cenat with someone like Davido (a popular Nigerian) and it will still be the same behaviour from many Nigerians. In these times of hunger, people “dey find who go drop something” for them. That’s just the main reason and nothing more.

  1. Isn’t it true that success has many friends? I think Americans too will behave likewise towards a very successful African visiting their country.

  2. I love the clearly written piece right from when the first ink drops to when the ink breaks. As usual- a beautiful gem is served.

    I sensed an atom or maybe bigger than atom, perhaps an element of truth to this (Africans and inferiority complex)- the society isn’t helping the matters either, as every school motivation on assembly and elementary books on success ends it with a “travelled out” as the crown of success.

    However, from your standpoint- you feel we should create a medal that suit us and let equality reign in our heart- however, some people are already in the structures that warrant the medal already; their sweats deserves some accolade too in the group they belong (if you have them there, then they deserve every piece of what they worked for).

    Having to craft a medal that suit them also pose more challenge than solve the inferiority complex- humans are insatiable. If we can’t be able to have a fair election, don’t you think we’ll still turn against one another when “fairness” is needed and it takes away the toil that it’s meant to serve.

    I think our problem goes deeper- inferiority is just a by-product
    We all need our head to be correct (therapy for everyone 😅)

    Note: My grammars aren’t checked. I couldn’t even read this comment twice- I’ll probably delete it.

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