A popular Swahili saying equates leadership to a dustbin; that when you are in authority, you should expect all manner of dirt to be hurled at you.
The last one week has been all about reminding Nairobi Woman representative Esther Muthoni Passaris of that saying, what with the scathing tweets that were being thrown her way in relation to the ever-rising MPs’ perks.
But rather than be the passive dustbin that indifferently receives any shape and size of trash thrown at it, Ms Passaris has been punching back.
“Hopefully, you will learn that sex is overrated as an income-earner. I have more between my ears than between my legs,” she wrote in response to a man who made a vile remark about her capabilities.
To another one who wondered what she had achieved since being elected in 2017, she also delivered a piece of her mind.
“I can’t fix what you yourself don’t aspire to fix. Next time you vote, think twice. Think issues,” wrote the ODM lawmaker.
When another user wondered why she was “rude” unlike her predecessor, she could not let it pass.
“I am forthright. Would you rather I accept all that’s thrown at me like a ‘little good girl’? If a man said the exact same thing I said, would it be rude or bold? At 55, I believe I have earned the right to speak up mind and state my case. Get used to it. How else will I lead?”
For Ms Passaris, it has been a week of fights — as it has been for the better part of the Woman representative’s life.
From way back in the early 2000s when she grabbed headlines with an upkeep case against businessman Pius Mbugua Ngugi, her life has been punctuated by fights.
There was a time she was fighting to register a political party, a battle she lost.
She wanted to register Harambee Political Party ahead of the 2017 General Election. However, the Registrar of Political Parties could not okay it because the word “harambee” is protected as it appears in Kenya’s coat of arms.
Ms Passaris would later sue the registrar, but she lost the case both at the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The judges were unequivocal that the laws of the land protected the use of “harambee”.
Then there was a time she had fights with the Nairobi city administrators over the operations of Adopt-a-Light, a company she ran that provided outdoor advertising services that banked on street lighting infrastructure.
The company operated with radiant success starting from March 2002 when it signed a deal with the Nairobi City Council. But its lights started dimming five years later, with the Nairobi City Council and the Kenya National Highways Authority seeking to reduce its glow.
As a result of a case Adopt-a-Light filed in 2006 against the City Council of Nairobi, the High Court ordered in November 2007 that the city administration should restore Adopt-a-Light billboards on Nyerere Road and Arboretum Drive that it had pulled down.
On her personal front, Ms Passaris has waged battles to protect her home. An ongoing court case puts in jeopardy her stay at a house in Kitisuru, where she has stayed for more than a decade.
That battle mirrors another she had in 2003, when she sued Mr Mbugua, the owner of Thika Coffee Mills, demanding that she be paid Sh200,000 for monthly maintenance.
And ever since she joined politics, she has been attacked on many fronts. Recently, it was a fight to maintain her dignity as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko went on a verbal assault against her and later released what were purportedly telephone conversations between him and the then ODM Woman Rep candidate ahead of the 2017 elections that seemed to reveal behind-the-scenes political workings.
For now, after the social media storm in the last few days that has generated more heat than light, the question lingers: will the real Passaris still stand up?