When I last saw Dan Lartey, he gave me a very strong and firm handshake. He looked good. He looked healthy. He looked very young for a man in his eighties and if anyone had told me that he’d be dead in 12 months, I’d have told the person to go to hell.
It was a couple of weeks to the elections last year and Uncle Dan – dreaming of running for the presidency for the third time – had come to JOY FM in the early morning to defend his choice of running mate. Just before entering the studio, I went to him to say ‘hello’ and I asked him why he won’t just give up, pointing out to him that I know he would never be president. He went into a tirade. He was throwing his hands all over the place and saying things that made me laugh. It seemed to me that he was joking. But he was dead serious.
I can still hear him stammering as he tried to make his point and I can see his eyes puff out and open wide, the sides of his mouth frothing as he berated the Kufuor administration for running the country down and leading the country nowhere.
On that I agreed with him.
“Ghanaians have seen the mistake they made in voting for Kufuor,” he said. “This year, they will vote for me. They now know that domestication is the only way out.”
On that, I was certain he didn’t know what he was talking about.
But let’s give it to him. Dan Lartey was a man of deep convictions and he stubbornly stood by each of them. He had made up his mind that Ghana can’t develop if our leaders keep going around the world, cup in hand, looking for so-called investors and hand outs from the west. He told us to look within and think “domestication”.
Most of us didn’t take him seriously enough. We couldn’t have. The things he said and the manner he said them were funny. Whiles most of us saw him as a fair sprinkling of comic relief for the Ghanaian body politic, he didn’t see himself as such. He was certain he had something to offer.
And now that he’s gone, we can look back and ask – what did Dan Lartey offer Ghanaians?
For starters, he offered ‘domestication’. It must have sounded like a joke when he spoke the word in the run up to the presidential elections in 2004. But he was right. We cannot develop if we don’t start making good use of what we’ve been endowed with. No one can take “domestication” from Uncle Dan. The theory was not exactly his. But he found the right word for it and that word will ring in our heads for a long time.
All the candidates who contested the elections last year spoke about the need for us to look within. None of them dared to use the word because Uncle Dan would have been on their necks for stealing his idea. Now, as we celebrate his life, we should reflect deeply on the Lartey Doctrine of “domestication” – start doing things for ourselves, use our resources wisely and stop depending on handouts.
In his stubbornness, Dan Lartey also taught each of us to be passionate about what we believe in and press on with it. Even though he always stood out as the odd one, Uncle Dan never gave up. He knew people laughed at him and belittled his ambitions. But he was unfazed. He had made up his mind that ‘domestication’ is key for Ghana’s development and nothing could change it. For that, I’d say, Dan Lartey had a solid pair between his legs.
Only a man with balls of steel will press on the way Dan Lartey did.
In the end he achieved a lot for himself. It’s true that he didn’t attain the political success he desired. But he attained significance. Each time the word ‘domestication’ comes up, Dan Lartey’s name will spring up in the minds of millions of Ghanaians. That is significance. And that’s what life should be about. Dan Lartey lived his to the fullest and I am sure he had a lot of fun.
So long, Uncle Dan.