"The mythology of the events...": a writer's comment on the story of the Biafran conflict. There is nothing mythological about a headless corpse lying on the platform of Enugu railway station; nothing mythological about blood dripping through the floorboards of a passenger lorry, occupants fleeing the Northern massacre; a baby crying herself to death on the concrete floor of an abandoned orphanage. Jim Malia spares the reader little in telling the tale of the nightmare that was Biafra: tribal conflict crushing the hard-won fruits of Independence; military coup followed by massacre, secession blockade, starvation. But there is a brighter side to the story: Christmas 1960, the author's arrival in the country to take up a teaching-post shortly after the granting of independence, Christmas and New Year and Independence celebrations all rolled into one under a bright dry-season sky.Within five short years, the black clouds of warfare were to blot out that brightness. How many now remember Biafra, the first such conflict that television brought into our homes, people staring in wonder at the sight of suffering unseen since the days of the Holocaust?
To alleviate that suffering, those same people gave and they gave generously: little girls organising street-concerts for the starving Biafran children; old folk handing over their week's pension intact. Yet as they gave, many asked and still ask: "Why? Why this suffering? Why the turmoil of post-colonial Africa?" This book is an attempt to answer that question. And as for 'The Memory of the Music'? Read on.
Jim Malia, a native of Tyneside, England, held a teaching-post during the early sixties in a secondary college in what was then Eastern Nigeria.At the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war, the Biafran war, Federal aerial bombardment forced the closure of the school which became a refugee centre manned by members of the Scottish-based Marist teaching order to which Jim then belonged.Sent back to England in an endeavour to raise awareness of the dire situation caused by the blockade of Biafra, Jim worked initially with Oxfam lobbying Westminster and then, in Scotland, fundraising for the massive relief operation established by the World Council of Churches along with the Catholic organisation, Caritas International organised in turn by the redoubtable members of the Irish province of the Spiritan Order, aptly named 'The Holy Ghosts'.Returning to Biafra, Jim found himself assigned to the airstrip at Uli working, under nightly bombardment, in the reception of relief supplies sent in from the offshore island of Sao Tome.With capitulation and Federal takeover, Jim was arrested along with fellow relief workers, nuns, priests and his own Brothers, accused of illegal entry, imprisoned for a while in the notorious Port Harcourt jail, released and deported back to England where he now lives in happy retirement with wife and son on the peaceful Isle of Wight with nothing but the memory of that music to disturb that pease.