With so much excitement and love in my heart, I would like to introduce you to my dear friend. Most importantly, also to one important life lesson I have gleaned from this amazing life experience called friendship. Currently, I look forward to turning thirty; but my friend is already counting down to his 90thbirthday. Our friendship has lasted over five years and still counting. This friend is in the person of Mr Joe Lartey; a retired ace commentator and broadcaster of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). He is affectionately called Over-To-You, which to me, is a whole brand on its own.
In case you skipped the title of this article then please pause here, and read over it again. Yes. I mean my 89-year old friend has a Facebook account and we are connected on that platform; but certainly, what I want to share with you is not the kind of a ‘friend’ as determined by Mark Elliot Zuckerberg and his great team based in Menlo Park, California, USA.
I am sure you are about to wonder, or are already wondering: How can a person less than thirty consider a man who qualifies to be his grandfather his closest friend? Well, relax and smile as I am right now. Because that alone should be enough an indication of the very interesting and insightful reading pleasure you are bound to enjoy.
HOW WE MET
“Are you interested in improving your public speaking skills?” That was the question I saw crawling at the bottom of a television screen which drove me, to then Alisa Hotel (now Swiss Spirit Hotel), to join the Accra Toastmasters― a public speaking training club which Mr Lartey co-founded in Ghana. (I remain grateful to Mr Akwasi Sarfo Kantanka, who then hosted Change Managers on TV3, for adverting Toastmasters on his show; and of course, also for his warm reception and initial encouragements that made me love Toastmasters so much). By early 2011, the leadership of the Club had changed and so was the venue for our meetings.
Hence, it was at the UDS Guest House near the Ako Adjei Interchange, that I had that memorable opportunity to officially do my very first prepared public speech (what we call in TI circles as the “ice-breaker”). The objective of the speech is for the speaker to introduce himself to his audience in the structure of a standard speech making: Introduction, body and conclusion. I simply titled my speech “Ke Nako…It’s my time” which I learnt from the official tagline for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa. “Ke Nako” is a Setho phrase which simply and literary means: “it’s time”.
Surely, it was my time! It was my time to let TI members know who I am. And that I did to the best of my ability. At the end of the speech, the audience applauded. But much more to the applause was what was to happen at the very end of the evening’s meeting. “Young man, what is your name?” I heard from behind me. As I turn around, there was this grey-headed man politely smiling. “I am Evans Adu-Gyamfi”, I responded.
The interaction ensued back and forth, and then he further requested, “Would you like to be my friend?” I want to me very honest here. I cannot recall exactly what my response was, for two reasons. First, I was overwhelmed by the request. Secondly, I had no idea what that meant. “Me! …this ‘old’ man…my friend?” It felt totally surprising. Thankfully, the good news is, when the meeting was all over, Mr Lartey and I sat in the same vehicle to the Lartebiokoshie Estates, where he still lives. And that was how I first met with “Ataa Joe”, as I sometimes call him.
The list may be endless and certainly, the limitations of space will not permit me to pour my heart out as I initially wanted to. But that’s fine. I can understand. So, I decided that in this write-up, I would crystallise all those experiences or better still, lessons of what true friendship is ― as I have experienced with the Old Fella, Mr Joe Lartey ― in just one point. Here we go:
Friendship is Two Histories. Any true friendship is the harmless collision of two histories. (Here, I give credit to a brother, Dale Quist for opening my mind’s eyes to this insightful understanding). When Mr Lartey and I met, I had no clue what manner of man he was. I did not know he was a celebrity in Ghana. No, I knew nothing. I was only a young man who had come to Accra from Sefwi-Wiawso for his university education. At the time, I did not even know Accra very well. Perhaps, the only personal background history I could talk about was how I grew up in a farming community in Sefwi, and later my three-year stay on the campus of Prempeh College, Kumasi. Apart from that, I truly could not think of anything else.
But here he was ―a man who joined the British Navy at age sixteen to be at World War II. By 1961, he had already started his broadcasting career and was on a quick rise to stardom. Let me help you with a short biography of the man I am presenting to you; just in case you were born long after the 1970s as I was. Mr Joe Lartey, as a ceremonial and sports commentator with GBC, covered the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ghana (1961); the commissioning of the Tema Harbour (1962); the World Featherweight title fight between Sugar Ramos and Floyed Robertson (1962). Then he had the rare privilege to interview one of the world’s boxing legends, the late Mohammed Ali when he visited Ghana (1964). He also covered the first All African games, Brazaville (1965); the first O.A.U conference hosted by Ghana (1965); the Munich Olympics (1972); the Moscow Olympics (1980); five Africa Nations Cup Championships etc. etc. And the list goes on without end.
Here is the point. Not considering the rich history and wide exposure he had enjoyed in life, Mr Lartey found a place in his heart, for our two histories to merge to make our friendship more meaningful. I was only about living out my life potential, while he was getting close to writing his memoirs (something I am hard on him these days). I had little or no history; at best I could be described at the time as someone with a promising history yet to be lived. But you see, where there is the spirit of true friendship, the history of the two individuals involved collide smoothly. It does not really matter how tall or short one or the other individual stand in the social class system. It borders on mutual respect for each other’s past history and future prospects. Period!
By the way, dear reader I want to find out from you: do you have a friend? I guess I have shared enough about my friend with you. Why not consciously build one that will last for a reasonable period. And if you do, please do everything possible within your means to nurture and let it be enjoyable and mutually beneficial. On that friendly note, kindly, permit me to call you a ‘my friend’. I choose to call you ‘friend’ not because you know me in person, but for the simple fact that I need you “to think excitement” about friendship; especially, friendship with elderly persons. Over to you!
By: Evans Adu-Gyamfi/LeadersGH