Before joining ODM in 2016, Prof Sam Ongeri was one of most despised politicians among Orange Democratic Movement party supporters in Gusii.
For decades, Prof Ongeri has been at parallel camps with Raila Odinga, often accusing the former Prime Minister of antagonism and divisive politics.
In 2010, Raila, then the Prime Minister, fired Ongeri from cabinet a decision which was however rejected by retired President Mwai Kibaki.
But since joining ODM, Ongeri has been instrumental in the party, with Odinga depending on his advise and counsel. Unlike in the past, most of Raila's trips to Gusii are organised by the veteran leader.
During the burial of Dr Hezron Manduku, Raila hailed Prof Ongeri and kept making reference to him throughout his speech in Nyaribari Masaba.
"We have to work together. Like the professor has said, unity is key. Gusii has leaders with principles and Ongeri is one of those leaders," he said.
At a fundraiser in Gusii, ODM chairman John Mbadi hailed Ongeri, conceding that he never knew that he's such a visionary leader.
"I never used to understand Ongeri until recently when he joined us. And maybe that's why you keep voting him despite the party. He's an intelligent leader," he said.
An insider who didn't want to be named, said on Friday that Raila is depending on Ongeri's experience to bring Abagusii community together ahead of 2022.
"The hype around Matiang'i is being pushed by him. In the long run, he'll lead those leaders to Raila's team. He's an engineer behind Raila's moves nowdays," he said.
Recently, Ongeri led Gusii leaders to Raila's office where long time critic Jimmy Angwenyi joined the camp. Ongeri is keen to run for gubernatorial seat.