Interview with Mr. Adi Bonsu, Driver for UN and its Resident Coordinators (1988-2017)


October 2017, Accra, Ghana

Mr. Adi Bonsu has been a staff of the United Nations Ghana as a driver in various capacities for the UN and its Resident Coordinators since 1988. He is now going on retirement and we fortunately had the opportunity of interviewing him. The interview afforded him the opportunity of sharing both his personal and professional life in the UN as well as his achievements and the challenges he encountered working for the UN and its Resident Coordinators.  He also revealed his post retirement plan to us.

I feel honored meeting you, Mr. Adi Bonsu. Please, could you tell us a little about your personal background?

I am 60 years with a family consisting of my wife and three children, two girls and a boy. I am from Kumasi. I went to Presbyterian Senior Secondary School (Presec-Accra) from 1970-1975. After my education, I went into driving with my own commercial car, and eventually became a transport officer in Kumasi.

There are many professions in the world, why driving?

Driving was not my dream job. I wanted to work in the public sector. But in life you don’t always get what you want. So I didn’t hesitate to take up the driving job when it availed itself. It was through this job that I started a family, and I have developed love for the profession.

How did you get into the United Nations (UN) driving job; what inspired you to choose this job?

Whilst in Kumasi, a Nigerian friend of mine working at the Nigerian High Commission-Ghana invited me to Accra, and subsequently got me employed at the High Commission as a driver. I worked there for almost three and half years. Through the High Commission, I got to know many important personalities including a UNDP staff who introduced me to the UN. I got interested and joined UNDP in 1988.

What were your expectations; how long did you expect to be in the job?

In every job I find myself in, my expectation is to serve as long as I can. But the working environment and conditions are what mostly influence one’s commitment, and I believe I found that amiable atmosphere in the UN, and that’s why I have served for 30 years now.

Please, can you summarise for us your professional experience with the UN?

At the initial stage of my UN career in 1988, I was a project driver. Later, I moved to the economic section of UNDP. I believe that thanks to my hard work and competency I was promoted and assigned to work with the Resident Coordinator (RC) in 1993. From that period on, I have served eight Resident Coordinators, namely Akpata Solomon, Abdullahi Jani, Late Faoundo Alfred, Dauda Toure, Ruby Sandhu Rojon, Lim Wallace, Gita Welch and Christine Evans-Klock, the current UN Resident Coordinator, as a personal driver. The UN has helped me a lot. I have improved my professional driving standards and interpersonal skills. Also, the UN has exposed me to several African countries, and allowed me to meet important personalities such as former UN Secretary Generals, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Working with the RCs is a job with a lot of responsibility and can probably be quite challenging. Could you share with us some of those challenges?

Indeed, it can be a bit arduous. Due to the lack of a driving timetable or work plan, I was sometimes called upon unprepared to take the RC to meetings and programmes. Traffic in Accra can be very heavy, so being called on duty impromptu could make my work a bit difficult. The time-consuming nature of the job had a toll on my relationship with my family sometimes. I did my best to serve the RCs’ needs since that is what I was employed to do. And you know, my professionalism is the reason for my long service in the UN and the eight RCs.

Looking back at those 30 years of service at the UN, do you have a favourite moment or memory of your service to the RCs and the United Nations? 

Working with the RCs, traveling to other countries, and experiencing their way of life was fascinating. My fondest memory at the UN, however, was the opportunity to meet the former UN Secretary Generals, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It was one of the happiest days in my life. They were great people I see or hear about on TV. Meeting them personally was a relishing experience. I thank God and the UN for this opportunity.

You are now retiring, is there anything you wish you would have done before retiring?

While at the UN, I performed to my highest standards, and I am proud of that. I have no regrets. My wish would have been to serve the organisation forever, but we know that isn’t possible. 

For your distinguished service, you are leaving a legacy. Any advice for your successor?

My 30 years of work at the UN and with the RC speaks volumes of my competence. I believe that would serve as a benchmark for my successors. I advise them to be hard working, respectful and collaborative with both the RCs and other UN staff, and also to adhere to the UN’s rules and ethics. I encouraged my successor to maintain the car in good shape, and contact me for any advice when and where necessary.

What are your future plans, post UN?

The UN job has earned me a lot in cash and experience. Animal Husbandry has always been a priority. So, I will invest some of my earnings into catering for my family. 

Your last words, Mr. Adi?

My utmost thanks go to God for my life and health and the UN for the opportunity to serve. I also thank you for this interview.

The interview was conducted by Raf Adams, UNFPA, on behalf of the UN Communications Group.