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From Lagos to Accra: How Detty December Is Fueling the Rivalry Between Two Cities

Although the December holidays are observed around the world, the season bears a cultural nuance for Nigerians. December features a frenzied, holiday-long lineup of fun activities that range from clubbing, concert-going, carnivals to sightseeing and camping. All these are entrenched in what locals in the country have christened as “Detty December.”

This is a different type of national consciousness, drawing from the go-for-broke impulse that many Nigerians have towards wanting to have a good time. Nobody knows the exact origins of Detty December. It may have originated from Calabar Carnival, with its sexual motifs and cues, featuring an international parade of delectable dancing women. It could also have come from the pulse of nightlife in Lagos, the city canonically relished as the foremost destination of Detty December endeavors.

Either way, it has ingrained itself in the lexicon of young people rather quickly. The concept is very much youth-led, working in tandem with thriving cultural industries like music, fashion and movies. But Detty December isn’t just a local affair. Nigerians in the diaspora have incredible stakes in these activities as well, coming in from different parts of the world either as first-time returnees or seasonal holidayers. More than that, foreigners from other countries sometimes choose this period to see Nigeria for the first time.

“Detty December is the biggest market for travel and tourism around the world and it’s no different in Nigeria,” Omolola Adele-Oso, CEO of LOS Lifestyle Co., a Nigerian brand curating the African experience through travel and culture, said. “Our customers mainly come from the US and UK and are members of the diaspora from those regions. Our company typically offers multi-day tour packages that include a mix of visits to historic sites, arts and culture activities, as well as tasting the best of Detty December events.”

But things haven’t been a smooth ride recently. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the ecosystem of the travel business. And with increased vigilance over safety, international traveling for most people took a back seat.

“The pandemic was a blow to the industry and we all felt it,” Omolola said. “We all had losses. However, it has also been a time to understand the vulnerability and opportunity for the travel business. People are ready to travel again, we have to offer ways for them to do so smoothly. We launched Soft Landing as a way to help travelers navigate the frustrations of arriving into a city like Lagos. From airport protocol to home COVID testing to guides on what to do locally, we have to make it less stressful for our clients to travel in the midst of an evolving pandemic.”

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been the only issue, as far as Nigeria’s Detty December is concerned. Neighboring country Ghana is emerging as a player, enjoying just enough goodwill to keep itself motivated. While the West African country is blessed with its own grapevine of history and culture and has modestly attracted tourists over the years, it is currently taking extravagant leaps to wrestle influence from Nigeria. Ghana has become a rival, throwing a curveball with The Year of the Return initiative in 2019. It was a bold mandate, encouraging Black Americans and the Black diaspora to visit and invest in the country. The implications of that year-long program are still ongoing, from tourism boost to revenue uptick in local businesses to harnessing the momentum of creative artists towards annual events like Afrochella.

“During the Year of the Return, event companies in Ghana decided to do things that will make people come more,” a representative from CY Travels, Ghana-based travel consultancy company, said, “This has trickled into Ghana’s take on Detty December and our government is in support of it. That’s the difference between Ghana and Nigeria.”

“The Year of the Return was a big win for Ghana,” Lola said, “It was smart and with support from the federal level, the marketing and programming continues to tap into the growing Black travel market for people looking to reconnect and explore Africa.”

In 2020, Ovie Ofugara, Head of Content of Nigerian music blogging site NotJustOK, tweeted that Accra has toppled Lagos to become the official Detty December capital. While the statement is indeed hyperbolic it is also understandable. Alhaji Theozzy, a Ghanaian travel influencer and vlogger, sees Ghana overtaking Nigeria as the ideal destination for Detty December.

“Ordinarily, nightlife in Ghana is mad, especially with places like Osu, The Republic, Garage and Alley Bar and Bloom Bar. People secure their one month salary just for Friday nightlife in Accra,” Theozzy said. “But there’s something for everything but overall Ghana’s nightlife has no bounds and this could be its greatest asset.”

The conversation on spending December in Ghana amidst the pandemic was even a Clubhouse topic recently, which shows the influence the country is wielding. Those on the continent are familiar with the longstanding rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria, seen across entertainment, food, football, and so on. Perhaps this is the only time the feud between both countries is approved, working on each other’s tourism potential as a tool for national branding.


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