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Thursday, December 18, 1980 was a bright clear day in Kano, a welcome relief from the thick harmattan dust of the previous week. But that afternoon, a dark column of smoke rose up over the city. Word soon spread that the smoke came from trucks set on fire during a clash between police and followers of an obscure, and seemingly eccentric Muslim preacher by the name of Mallam Muhammadu Marwa, who was popularly called by the derisive nickname of Mallam Maitatsine. This nickname was derived from a Hausa phrase which he often used in his public preaching, “Wanda ba ta yarda ba Allah tatsine,” meaning roughly, “May God curse whoever doesn't agree with me.” Over the next ten days, Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, was engulfed in fear and confusion.1